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Full text of "Tales of a vanishing river"

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Book : 



F55Z 
MX 



COPYRIGHT DEPOSfT. 



TALES OF 
A VANISHING RIVER 



t 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 

SKETCHES 
IN DUNELAND 

THE 
DUNE COUNTRY 

THE VOICES 
OF THE DUNES 

ETCHING 
A PRACTICAL TREATISE 




A Kankakee Bayou 



(See Page 15) 



Tales of 
Sa 1/hnishinq T\iver 

by 

EARL H. REED 

.Author of 

"The Dune Country" 

"Sketches in DunelancT' 

etc. 

Illustrated by the Author 



NEW YORK -JOHN LANE COMPANY 

LONDON -JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD 

MCMXX 



Copyright, 1920, 
By John Lane Company 



Press of 

J. J. Little & Ives Company 

New York, U. S. A. 



„_J -7 IS20 
CI.A604462 






To 
MY FRIEND 

H. W. J. 



FOEEWOED 

THE background of this collection of sketches 
and stories is the country through which 
flowed one of the most interesting of our 
western rivers before its destruction as a natural 
waterway. 

This book is not a history. It is intended as an 
interpretation of the life along the river that the 
author has come in contact with during many years 
of familiarity with the region. Names of places and 
characters have been changed for the reason that, 
while effort has been made to adhere to artistic 
truth, literary liberties have been taken with facts 
when they have not seemed essential to the story. 

E. H. E. 



[7] 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I The Vanishing River 15 

II The Silver Arrow 31 

III The Brass Bound Box 47 

IV The "Wether Book" of Buck Granger's 

Grandfather 65 

V Tipton Posey's Store 105 

VI Muskrat Hyatt's Redemption .... 135 

VII The Turkey Club ........ 165 

VIII The Predicaments of Colonel Peets . . 207 

IX His Unlucky Star 245 



[9] 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

A Kankakee Bayou Frontispiece v 

Watjkena Facing Page 32 * 

Familiar Haunts 48 - 

The Old Log House 66"^ 

Tipton Posey 106 

"Puckerbrush Bill" 120 

Swan Peterson 122 

Dick Shakes 130 

"Muskrat" Hyatt 136 

The Reverend Daniel Butters 148 

"Bill" Styles 166 

Colonel Jasper M. Peets 208 K 

Miss Anastasia Simpson 218 

The Sheriff 264 



[11] 



I 

THE VANISHING RIVER 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

SOMEWHERE in a large swampland, about 
fifty miles east of the southern end of Lake 
Michigan, the early French explorers found 
the beginning of the river. 

A thread-like current crept through a maze of 
oozy depressions, quagmires, seeping bogs and little 
pools, among patches of sodden brush, alders and 
rank grass. "With many intricate windings, the 
vagrant waters, swollen by numberless springs and 
rivulets, emerged from the tangled morass, became 
a living stream, and began its long and tortuous 
journey toward the southwest, finally to be lost in 
the immensity of unknown floods beyond. 

The explorers called the stream the Theakiki. In 
the changing nomenclature of succeeding years it 
became the Kankakee. It was the main confluent 
of the Illinois, and one of the first highways of the 
white man to the Mississippi. 

The crude topographic charts of the early 
voyagers on the river naturally differ much in detail 
and accuracy, but, in comparing them with our mod- 
ern maps, we wonder at their keen observation and 
the painstaking use of their limited facilities. 

[151 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

The annals of their journeys are replete with 
description, legend, romance, disheartening hard- 
ship, and unremitting battle at the barriers of nature 
against her would-be conquerors. 

The name of LaSalle, that resplendent figure in 
the exploration of the west, will be forever asso- 
ciated with the Kankakee. There are few pages of 
historic lore more absorbing and thrilling to the 
admirer of unflinching fortitude and dauntless 
heroism than the dramatic story of this knight 
errant of France, and his intrepid followers. Among 
the woods and waters, and on the desolate frozen 
wastes of a strange land, they found paths that led 
to imperishable renown. They were avant-coureurs 
of a new force that was to transform a wilderness 
into an empire, but an empire far different from that 
of their hopes and dreams. 

LaSalle 's little band had ascended the St. 
Joseph, and had portaged their belongings from 
one of its bends about five miles away. They 
launched their canoes on the narrow tide of the 
Theakiki and descended the river to the Illinois. 
The incentives of the expedition were to expand the 
dominions of Louis the XIV, to extend the pale of 
the cross, and to find new fountains that would pour 
forth gold. 

For gold and power man has scarred the earth 
he lives upon and annihilated its creatures since the 
dawn of recorded time, and for gold and power will 
he struggle to the end, whatever and wherever the 
end may be, for somewhere in the scheme of crea- 

[16] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

tion it is so written. The moralist may find the 
story on the Vanishing River, as he may find it 
everywhere else in the world, in his study of the 
fabric of the foibles and passions of his kind. 

The old narratives mention a camp of Miami 
Indians, visible near the source of the river, at the 
time of LaSalle's embarkation. We may imagine 
that curious beady eyes peered from the clustered 
wigwams in the distance upon the newcomers, the 
wondering aborigines little knowing that a serpent 
had entered their Eden, and thenceforth their race 
was to look only upon a setting sun. 

The river flowed through a mystic land. With 
magnificent sweeps and bends it wound out on open 
fertile areas and into dense virgin forests, doubling 
to and fro in its course, widening into broad lakes, 
and moving on to vast labyrinths of dank grass, 
rushes, lily pads, trembling bogs and impenetrable 
brush tangles. The main channel often lost itself 
in the side currents and in mazes of rank vegetation. 
Here and there were little still tarns and open pools 
that reflected the wandering clouds by day and the 
changing moons at night. 

There were great stretches of marshy wastes and 
flooded lowlands, where millions upon millions of 
water fowl found welcome retreats and never fail- 
ing food. During the migrating seasons in the 
spring and fall, vast flocks of ducks were patterned 
against the clouds. They swooped down in endless 
hordes. Turbulent calls and loud trumpetings 
heralded the coming of serried legions of geese, 

[17] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

swans and brant, as they broke their ranks, settled 
on to the hospitable waters and floated in gentle con- 
tentment. 

The wild rice fields were inexhaustable granaries, 
and intrusion into them was followed by hurried 
beating of hidden wings. A disturbance of a few 
birds would start a slowly increasing alarm; soon 
the sky would be darkened by the countless 
flocks swarming out of miles of grasses, and the air 
would be filled with the roar of fleeing pinions. 
Gradually they would return to enjoy their wonted 
tranquility. 

The feathered myriads came and went with the 
transient seasons, but great numbers remained 
and nested on the bogs among the rushes, and on 
the little oak shaded islands in the swamps. 

Coots, grebes, rails, and bitterns haunted the 
pools and runways among the thick sedges. Sud- 
den awkward flights out of concealed coverts often 
startled the quiet wayfarer on the currents and 
ponds of the swamps. The solitary loon's weird 
calls echoed from distant open waters. 

Swarms of blackbirds rose out of the reeds and 
rice, and, after vicarious circlings, disappeared into 
other grassy retreats, enlivening the solitudes with 
their busy clamor. 

In the summer and autumn the flowers of the wet 
places bloomed in luxuriant profusion. limitless 
acres of pond lilies opened their chaste petals in 
the slumberous airs. Harmonies of brilliant color 
bedecked the russet robes of autumn, and far over 

[18] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

the broad fenlands yellow and vermillion banners 
waved in the soft winds of early fall. 

In these wild marshlands was the kingdom of the 
muskrat. The little villages and isolated domiciles 
— built of roots and rushes, and plastered with mud 
— protruded above the surface over the wide 
expanses, and were concealed in cleared spaces in 
the high, thick grasses. The pelts of these prolific 
and industrious little animals were speedily con- 
verted into wealth in after years. 

The otter and the mink hunted their prey on the 
marshes and in the dank labyrinths of brush and 
wood debris along the main stream. Beavers 
thrived on the tributary waters, where these patient 
and skilful engineers built their dams and estab- 
lished their towns with the sagacity and foresight 
of their kind. 

On still sunshiny days the tribes of the turtles 
emerged from their miry retreats and basked in 
phlegmatic immobility on the sodden logs and 
decayed fallen timber that Uttered the course of the 
current through the deep woodlands. The muddy 
fraternity would often seem to cover every low pro- 
truding object that could sustain them. At the 
passing of a boat the gray masses would awake and 
tumble with loud splashings into the depths. 

The fish common to our western streams and lakes 
were prolific in the river. Aged men sit in hickory 
rocking chairs and enliven the mythology of their 
winter firesides with tales of mighty catfish, bass, 

[19] 



THE VANISHING EIVEE 

pike and pickerel that once swam in the clear waters 
and fell victims to their lures. 

The finny world has not only supplied man with 
invaluable food, but has been a beneficent stimulant 
to his imaginative faculties. 

The choruses of the bull frogs in the marshes and 
bayous at night are among the joys unforgetable to 
those who have listened to these concerts out on the 
moonlit stretches among the lily pads and bending 
rushes. The corpulent gossips in the hidden places 
sent forth medleys of resonant sound that resem- 
bled deep tones of bass viols. They mingled with the 
rippling lighter notes of the smaller frog folk, and 
all blended into lyrics of nocturnal harmonies that 
lulled the senses and attuned the heart strings to 
the Voices of the Little Things. 

Colonies of blue herons nested among the syca- 
mores and elms in the overflowed bottom lands bor- 
dering on the river. A well known ornithologist has 
justly called this stately bird "the symbol of the 
wild." Visits to the populous heronries were events 
long to be remembered by lovers of bird life. Some- 
times eight or ten of the rudely constructed nests 
would occupy one tree, and within an area of per- 
haps twenty acres, hundreds of gawky offspring 
would come forth in April to be fed and guarded 
by the powerful bills of the older birds. 

These nesting retreats were often accessible from 
the river, and a canoe floating into the placid and 
secluded precincts roused instant protest from the 
ghostly forms perched about on the limbs. The 

[20] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

great birds would circle out over the trees with, 
hoarse cries, but if the intruder became motionless 
they would soon return and resume their family 
cares. 

The perfect reflections in the clear still waters, 
with the inverted tracery of the tree tops against 
the skies below, decorated with the statuesque fig- 
ures of the herons, pictured dreamlands that 
seemed of another world, and tempted errant fancy 
into remote paths. 

The passenger pigeons came in multitudes to the 
river country in the fall and settled into the woods, 
where the ripe acorns afforded abundant food. The 
old inhabitants tell wondrous tales of their migra- 
tions, when the innumerable flocks obscured the 
clouds and the sound of the passing of the gray 
hosts was that of a moaning wind. The gregarious- 
ness of these birds was their ruin. They congre- 
gated on the dead trees in such numbers as to often 
break the smaller limbs. Owls, hawks, and four- 
footed night marauders feasted voraciously upon 
them. They were easy victims for the nets and guns 
of the pot hunters and the blind destructiveness of 
man wherever nature has been prodigal of her gifts. 
For years these beautiful creatures have been 
extinct, but the lesson of their going is only now 
beginning to be heeded. 

The black companies of the crows kept watch and 
ward over the forests and winding waters. Their 
noisy parliaments were in constant session, and few 
vistas through the woods, or out over the open land- 

[21] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

scapes, were without the accents of their moving 
forms against the sky. 

Among the many feathered species there are none 
that appear to take themselves more seriously. They 
are ubiquitous and most curious as to everything 
that exists or happens within the spheres of their 
activities, and are so much a part of our great out 
of doors that we would miss them sadly if they 
were gone. 

Wild turkeys and partridges were plentiful in 
the woods and underbrush. Eagles soared in majes- 
tic flight over the country and dropped to the waters 
and into the forests upon their furtive prey. 

In the spring the woodlands were filled with melo- 
dious choirs of the smaller birds. Their enemies 
were few and they thrived in their happy homes. 

Deer were once abundant. Elk horns have been 
found, and there are disputed records of straggling 
herds of buffalo. Panther tracks were sometimes 
seen, and the black bear — that interesting vagabond 
of the woods — was a faithful visitor to the wild bee 
trees. Wolves roved through the timber. Wild 
cats, foxes, woodchucks, raccoons, and hundreds of 
smaller animals, dwelt in the great forests. 

In this happy land lived the Miami and Potto- 
wattomie Indians. Their little villages of bark 
wigwams and tepees of dried skins were scatttered 
along the small streams, the borders of the river, 
and on the many islands that divided its course. 

They sat in spiritual darkness on the verdant 
banks until the white man came to change their gods 

[22] 



THE VANISHING EIVEE 

and superstitions, but the region teemed with fish, 
game and wild fruits, and, with their limited wants, 
they enjoyed the average contentment of human- 
kind. Whether or not their moral well being im- 
proved or deteriorated under the teachings and 
influence of the Franciscan and Jesuit fathers and 
the protestant missionaries, is a question for the 
casuists, but the ways of the white man withered 
and swept them away. Unable to hold what they 
could not defend, they were despoiled of their her- 
itage and exiled to other climes. 

Their little cemeteries are still found, where the 
buried skeletons grimly await the Great Solution, 
amid the curious decayed trappings of a past age 
that were interred for the use of the dead in mystical 
happy hunting grounds. Their problem, like ours, 
remains as profound as their sleep. Occasionally 
curious delvers into Indian history have unearthed 
grisly skulls, covered with mould, and fragments of 
bones in these silent places. 

Many thousands of stone weapons, flint arrow- 
heads, implements of the red men's simple agri- 
culture, and utensils of their rude housekeeping, 
have been found in the soil of the land where once 
their lodges tapered into the green foliage. 

Traces remain of the trails that connected the 
villages and threaded the country in every direction. 

The relations between the first settlers and the 
Indians seem to have been harmonious, but friction 
of interests developed with the continued influx of 
the whites, until the primitive law of "might makes 

[23] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

right" was applied to the coveted lands. Sculp- 
tured monuments have now been erected to the red 
chieftains by the descendants of those who robbed 
them — empty and belated recognition of their 
equities. 

Many hunters and trappers came into the wild 
country, lured by the abundant game and fur. The 
beavers and muskrats provided the greater part of 
the spoil of the trappers. 

Gradually the pioneer farmers began clearing 
tracts in the forests, where they found a soil of 
exuberant fertility. 

With improved methods and firearms the annihil- 
ation of the wild life commenced. Many hundreds 
of tons of scattered leaden shot lie buried in un- 
known miry depths, that streamed into the skies 
at the passing flocks. The modern breech loader 
worked devastating havoc. The water fowl 
dwindled rapidly in numbers with the onward years, 
for the fame of the region as a sportsman's paradise 
was nation wide. 

The inroads of the trappers on the fur bearing 
animals practically exterminated all but the prolific 
and obstinate muskrat, destined to be one of the 
last survivors. 

In later years the trappers lived in little shacks, 
"wickyups" and log cabins on the bayous, near the 
edges of the marshes, and on the banks of the tribu- 
tary streams. Many of them were strange odd 
characters. The almost continual solitude of their 
lives developed their baser instincts, without teach- 

[24] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

ing the arts of their concealment possessed by those 
who have social and educational advantages. 

With the increasing markets for wild game they 
became pot hunters and sold great quantities of 
ducks and other slaughtered birds. 

The rude habitations were often enlarged or 
rebuilt to accommodate visiting duck shooters and 
fishermen, for whom they acted as guides and hosts. 
They began to mingle in the life of the little towns, 
and occasional isolated cross road stores, that came 
into being at long distances apart, where they went 
to dispose of their pelts and game. 

Queerly clad, long haired and much bewhiskered, 
they were picturesque figures, standing in their 
sharp pointed canoes, which they propelled with long 
handled paddles that served as push poles in shal- 
low water. Dogs that were trained retrievers and 
devoted companions, often occupied the bows of the 
little boats. In the middle of the craft were piled 
wooden decoys, dead birds, muskrats or steel traps, 
when they journeyed to and from the marshes, where 
they appeared in all weathers and seasons except 
midsummer. During the hot months they usually 
loafed in somnolent idleness at the stores, puttered 
about their shacks, or did odd jobs on the farms. 

There are tales of lawlessness in the country char- 
acteristic of the raw edges of civilization in a 
sparsely settled region. Horse stealing appears to 
have been a favorite industry of evil doers, and tim- 
ber thieves were numerous. In the absence of con- 
venient jails and courts the law of the wild was ad- 

[25] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

ministered without mercy to these and other miscre- 
ants when they were caught. 

Moonshiners, whose interests did not conflict with 
local public sentiment, were seldom interfered with. 
The infrequent investigations of emissaries of the 
government met with little sympathy except when 
they were looking for counterfeiters. 

The Kankakee of old has gone, for the lands over 
which it spread became valuable. A mighty ditch 
has been excavated, extending almost its entire 
course, to deepen and straighten its channel, and to 
drain away its marshes. The altered line of the 
stream left many of the rude homes of the old 
trappers far inland. Their occupations have ceased 
and they sit in melancholy silence and brood upon 
the past. For them the book is closed. They falter 
at the threshold of a new era in which nature has 
not fitted them to live. 

Ugly steam dredges, with ponderous iron jaws, 
came upon the river. Hoary patriarchs of the for- 
est were felled. Ancient roots and green banks, 
mantled with vines, were ruthlessly blasted away. 
The dredge scoops delved into mossy retreats. 
Secret dens and runways were opened to the glaring 
light and there were many rustlings of furtive feet 
and wings through the invaded grasses. 

The limpid waters reflected Mammon's sinister 
form. The despoiler tore relentlessly through 
ferny aisles in the green embowered woods and 
across the swamps and flowery fens. The glittering 
lakes, the meandering loops and bends disappeared, 

[26] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

and the fecund marshlands yielded their life cur- 
rents. The thousand night voices on their moon 
flooded stretches were stilled. The wild life fled. 
Wondering flocks in the skies looked down on the 
strange scene, changed their courses and winged on. 

The passing of the river leaves its memories of 
musical ripplings over pebbly shoals, murmurous 
runes among the fallen timber, tremulous moon 
paths over darkened waters, the twinkling of wispy 
hosts of fireflies in dreamy dusks, blended perfumes 
of still forests, heron haunted bayous, enchanting 
islands, with their profusion of wild grapes and 
plums, and the glories of afterglows beyond the 
vast marshes. 

The currents that once widened in silvery mag- 
nificence to their natural barriers, and wandered 
peacefully among the mysteries of the woods, now 
flow madly on through a man-wrought channel. In 
sorrow the gloomy waters flee with writhing swirls 
from the land where once they crept out over 
the low areas and rested on their ways to the sea. 
In the moaning of the homeless tide we may hear the 
requiem of the river. 

Fields of corn and wheat stretch over the re- 
claimed acres, for the utilitarian has triumphed 
over beauty and nature's providence for her wild 
creatures. The destruction of one of the most 
valuable bird refuges on the continent has almost 
been completed, for the sake of immediate wealth. 
The realization of this great economic wrong must 
be left to future generations. The ugly dredges are 

[27] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

finishing the desecration on the lower reaches of 
the stream. 

The Vanishing River moves on through a twilight 
of ignorance and error, for the sacrifice of our bird 
life and our regions of natural beauty is the sacrifice 
of precious material and spiritual gifts. 

In the darkness of still nights pale phantom cur- 
rents may creep into the denuded winding channels, 
guided by the unseen Power that directs the waters, 
and fade into the dim mists before the dawn. 

Under the brooding care of the Great Spirit for 
the departed children, ghostly war plumes may 
flutter softly among the leaves and tassels of the 
corn that wave over the Red Man's lost domain, 
when the autumn winds whisper in the star-lit fields, 
for the land is peopled with shadows, and has passed 
into the realm of legend, romance and fancy. 



[28] 



n 

THE SILVER ARROW 



II 

THE SILVER ARROW 

THE story of the arrow was slowly unravelled 
from the tangled thread of interrupted nar- 
rative related to us by old Waukena. She 
sat in her little log hut among the tall poplars and 
birches, beyond the farther end of Whippoorwill 
Bayou, and talked of the arrow during our visits, 
but never in a way that enabled us to connect the 
scattered fragments of the tale into proper sequence 
until we had heard various parts of it many times. 

She was a remnant of the Pottowattomies. She 
did not know when she was born, but, from her 
knowledge of events that happened in her life-time, 
the approximate dates of which we knew, she must 
have been over ninety. 

Her solitary life and habitual silence had devel- 
oped a taciturnity that steals upon those who dwell 
in the stillness of the forest. There was a far away 
look in the old eyes, and a tinge of bitterness in her 
low voice, as she talked sadly in her broken English, 
of the days that were gone. 

She cherished the traditions of her people, and 
their sorrows lingered in her heart. Like shriveled 
leaves clinging to withered boughs, her memories 

[31] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

seemed to rustle faintly when a new breath of inter- 
est touched them, and from among these rustlings 
we culled the arrow's story. 

The little cabin was very old. Its furnishings 
were in keeping with its occupant and sufficient for 
her simple needs. There was a rough stone fire- 
place at one end of the single room. A flat pro- 
jecting boulder on one side of its interior provided 
a shelf for the few cooking utensils. They were 
hung on a rickety iron swinging arm over the wood 
fire when in use. A much worn turkey wing, with 
charred edges, lay near the hearth, with which the 
scattered ashes were dusted back into the fire- 
place. A bedstead, constructed of birch saplings, 
occupied the other end of the room. Several coon 
and fox skins, neatly sewed together, and a couple 
of gray blankets, laid over some rush mats, com- 
pleted the sleeping arrangements. With the excep- 
tion of a few bunches of bright hued feathers, stuck 
about in various chinks, the rough walls were bare 
of ornament. 

The other furniture consisted of a couple of low 
stools, a heavy rocking chair and a small pine table. 
A kerosene lantern and some candles illumined the 
squalid interior at night. 

In an open space near the cabin was a small patch 
of cultivated ground that produced a few vegetables. 
Sunflowers and hollyhocks grew along its edge and 
gave a touch of color to the surroundings. 

The old settlers and their families, who lived in 
the river country, provided Waukena with most of 

[32] 




V 



Waukena 



THE SILVER ARROW 

her food supplies and the few other comforts that 
were necessary to her lonely existence. 

Many times I studied the rugged old face in the 
fire light. Among the melancholy lines there 
lurked a certain grimness and lofty reserve. There 
was no humility in the modelling of the determined 
mouth and chin. The features were those of a 
mother of warriors. The blood of heroes, unknown 
and forgotten, was in her veins, and the savage 
fatalism of centuries slumbered in the placid dark 
eyes. It was the calmed face of one who had defied 
vicissitude, and who, with head unbowed, would 
meet finality. 

My friend the historian had known her many 
years, and had made copious notes of her childhood 
recollections of the enforced departure of her tribe 
from the river country. She and several others had 
taken refuge in a swamp until the soldiers had gone. 
They then made their way north and dwelt for a 
few years near the St. Joseph, where a favored por- 
tion of the tribe was allowed to retain land, but 
finally returned to their old haunts. 

When she was quite young her mother gave her 
the headless arrow, which she took from one of the 
recesses in the log wall and showed to us. It was 
a slender shaft of hickory, perfectly straight, and 
fragments of the dyed feathers that once ornamented 
it still adhered to its delicately notched base. At 
the other end were frayed remnants of animal fiber 
that had once held the point in place. There were 
dark stains along the shaft that had survived the 

[33] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

years. The old squaw held it tenderly in her hands 
as she talked of it, and always replaced it carefully 
in the narrow niche when the subject was changed. 

Nearly a hundred years ago the shaft was fash- 
ioned by an old arrowmaker up the river for Little 
Turtle, a young hunter, who hoped to kill a par- 
ticular bald eagle with it. For a long time the bird 
had soared with unconquered wings over the river 
country, and seemed to bear a charmed life. It had 
successfully eluded him for nearly a year, but finally 
fell when the twang of Little Turtle's bow sent the 
new weapon into his breast, as he sat unsuspectingly 
on a limb of a dead tree that bent over the river. 

The victor proudly bore his trophy to his bark 
canoe and paddled down the stream to Whippoorwill 
Bayou. He pulled the little craft up into the under- 
brush at twilight, and sat quietly on the bank until 
the full moon came out from among the trees. 

On the other side of the bayou were heavy masses 
of wild grape vines that had climbed over some dead 
trees and undergrowth. Through a strange freak 
of nature the convoluted piles had resolved them- 
selves into grotesque shapes that, in the magic sheen 
of the moonlight, suggested the head and shoulders 
of a gigantic human figure, with long locks and over- 
hanging brows, standing at the edge of the forest. 
The lusty growth had crept over the lower trees in 
such a way that the distribution of the shadows com- 
pleted the illusion. An unkempt old man seemed to 
stand wearily, with masses of the tangled verdure 
heaped over his extended hands. It was only when 

[34] 



THE SILVER ARROW 

the moon was near the horizon that the lights and 
shadows produced the strange apparition. The 
weird figure, sculptured by the sorcery of the pale 
beams, was called "The Father of the Vines" by 
the red men, and he was believed to have an occult 
influence over the living things that dwelt in the 
forests along the river. 

Under one of the burdened hands was a dark 
grotto that led back into the mysteries of the woods, 
and from it came the low cry of a whippoorwill. 
Little Turtle instantly rose, dragged out the con- 
cealed canoe, paddled silently over the moonlit 
water, and entered the grotto. A shadowy figure 
had glided out to met him, for the whippoorwill call 
was Nebowie's signal to her lover. 

For months the grotto had been their trysting 
place. Rose winged hours were spent there, and the 
great hands seemed to be held in benediction, as the 
world old story was told within the hidden recesses. 

Nebowie's father, Moose Jaw, a scarred old war- 
rior and hunter, had told White Wolf that his dark- 
eyed willowy daughter should go to his wigwam 
when the wild geese again crossed the sky, and White 
Wolf was anxiously counting the days that lay be- 
tween him and the fruition of his hopes. 

He was a tall, low browed, villainous looking sav- 
age. He had once saved Moose Jaw from an un- 
timely death. The old Indian was crossing a frozen 
marsh one winter morning, with a deer on his shoul- 
ders, and broke through the ice. White Wolf hap- 
pened to see him and effected his rescue. He had 

[35] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

long gazed from afar on the light in Moose Jaw's 
wigwam, but Nebowie 's eyes were downcast when he 
came. He lived down the river, and the people of 
his village seldom came up as far as Whippoorwill 
Bayou. 

His persistent visits, encouraged by the grateful 
old Indian, and frowned upon by the flower he 
sought, gradually became less frequent, and finally 
ceased, when he learned the secret of Nebowie and 
Little Turtle, after stealthily haunting the neighbor- 
hood of the bayou for several weeks. 

An evil light came into White Wolf's sinister 
eyes, and the fires of blood lust kindled in his breast. 
He went on the path of vengeance. The savage and 
the esthete are alike when the coveted male or 
female of their kind is taken by another. He was 
too crafty to wage open warfare and resolved to 
eliminate his rival in some way that would not 
arouse suspicion and resentment when he again 
sought Nebowie's smiles. 

Old Moose Jaw smoked many pipes, and meditated 
philosophically over his daughter's obstinate dis- 
regard of the compact with White Wolf. Nebowie 's 
mother had been dead several years, and the old 
Indian was easily reconciled to what appeared to be 
his daughter's resolution to remain with him, for 
the little bark wigwam would be lonely without her. 
She went cheerfully about her various tasks, and 
never mentioned Little Turtle, until one day they 
came together and told him their story. As nothing 
had been seen of White Wolf for a long time, the 

[36] 



THE SILVER ARROW 

old man assumed that his ardor had cooled, and 
finally consented to the building of the new wigwam 
on the bayou bank near the Father of the Vines, 
where Nebowie would still be near him. He had 
no objections to Little Turtle and hoped that the 
obligation to White Wolf could be discharged in 
some other way. 

He rejoiced when the small black eyes of a pa- 
poose blinked at him when he visited the new wig- 
wam one afternoon during the following summer. He 
spent much time with the little wild thing on his knee 
when she was old enough to be handled by any- 
body but her mother. He would sit for hours, gently 
swinging the birch bark cradle that hung from a 
low bough near the bank, for he was no longer able 
to hunt or fish, and took no part in the activities of 
the men of the village. Little Turtle's prowess 
amply supplied both wigwams with food and 
raiment, and there was no need for further exertion. 

White Wolf had apparently recovered from his 
infatuation. He occasionally came up the river, but 
his connection with the affairs of the community, 
whose little habitations were widely scattered 
through the woods beyond the bayou, was consid- 
ered a thing of the past. 

Little Turtle was highly esteemed by the men of 
his village, and two years after his marriage he 
was made its chief. 

The following spring delegations from the various 
villages along the river departed for a general pow- 
wow of the tribe, near the mouth of the St. Joseph, 

[37] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

in the country of the dunes, about eighty miles 
away. Little Turtle and White "Wolf went with 
them. Time had nurtured the demon in the heart of 
the baffled suitor, but there were no indications of 
enmity during the trip. The party broke up on its 
way home and took different trails. Little Turtle 
never returned. 

Nebowie pined in anguish for the home coming, 
and White Wolf waited for her sorrow to pass. She 
spent months of misery, and finally carried her 
aching heart to the " Black Robe," who ministered 
to the spiritual needs of her people, after the for- 
mula of his sect, in the little mission house up the 
river. He was a kindly counselor and listened with 
sympathy to her story. 

He belonged to that hardy and zealous band of 
ecclesiastics who had come into the land of another 
race to build new altars, and to teach what they be- 
lieved to be the ways to redemption. He told Nebowie 
to take her sorrow to the white man's deity and gave 
her a small silver crucifix as a token that would 
bring divine consolation and peace. Forms of pen- 
ance and supplication were prescribed, and she was 
sent away with the blessing of the devout priest. 

Nebowie carried her cross and, during the still 
hours in the little wigwam, she held it to her 
anguished breast. The months brought no surcease. 
In the quiet ministry of the woods there crept into 
her heart a belief that the magic of the Black Robe 's 
God was futile. 

The inevitable atavism came and she departed 

[38] 



THE SILVER ARROW 

into the silences. For a long time her whereabouts 
were unknown. During the bitter months her in- 
tuitive mind worked out the problem. Something 
that she found in the wilderness had solved the mys- 
tery of her loved one's disappearance, and, when 
she returned, she hammered her silver crucifix into 
an arrow head, bound it with deer sinew to the hick- 
ory shaft of the arrow with which Little Turtle had 
killed the bald eagle, and meditated upon the hour 
of her revenge. White Wolf was doomed, and his 
executioner patiently bided the time for action. 

He renewed his visits and condoled with the sad 
old man, but made no progress with Nebowie, 
although she sometimes seemed to encourage his 
advances. 

One evening in the early fall he returned from a 
hunting trip over the marshes. He followed one of 
the small trails that skirted the woods near his 
village. A shadowy form moved silently among the 
trees. There was a low whir, and something sped 
through the dusk. 

When they found White Wolf in the morning the 
hair on one side of his head was matted with blood, 
and a small hole led into his stilled brain, but there 
was no clue to the motive or to the author of the 
tragedy. He was duly mourned and buried after 
the manner of his fathers. His taking off was num- 
bered among the enigmas of the past, and was soon 
forgotten. 

Nebowie continued her home life with her father 
and her little one, but tranquility was in her face. 

[39] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

She felt within her the glow that retribution brings 
to the savage heart — whether it be red or white. 
A recompense had come to her tortured soul that 
softened the after years. The silver of the arrow 
point had achieved a mission that had failed when 
it bore the form of a cross. 

During our exploration of the sites of the old 
Indian villages in the river country, we discovered 
a large pasture that had never been ploughed. 
Traces of two well worn trails led through it, and, 
on a little knoll near the center of the field, we found 
what appeared to be burial mounds. 

We were reluctant to desecrate the hallowed spot, 
but finally yielded to the temptation to open one of 
them. We unearthed two skeletons. They were 
both in a sitting position. I picked up one of the 
skulls and curiously examined it. Something rattled 
within the uncanny relic and dropped to the grass. 
The small object proved to be a silver arrowhead, 
and Waukena's story came home to us with startling 
reality. We replaced the bones and reshaped the 
mound as best we could, but carried with us the 
mouldy skull and its carefully wrought messenger 
of death. 

Nearly all of the Indians in the river country were 
buried in a sitting position. The grim skeletons of 
the vanished race belong to the world that is under 
ground. In countless huddled hordes, they sit in 
the gloom of the fragrant earth, with hands out- 

[40] 



THE SILVER ARROW 

stretched, as if in mute appeal, and wait through 
the years for whatever gods may come. 

In the darkness that may be eternal, the disputa- 
tions of theologians do not disturb the gathering 
mould. The multitudinous forms of reward and 
punishment, that play in empty pageantry upon the 
hopes and fears of those who walk the green earth, 
touch not the myriads in its bosom. 

The self appointed, who bear the lights of man 
born dogma, and the blessings and curses of imag- 
inary deities, into the paths of the unknowable, 
grope as blindly among pagan bones as through 
cathedral aisles. 

That evening we rowed up the river to carry our 
story to Waukena. She held the mouldy skull in 
her lap for a long time and regarded it with deep 
interest. Sealed fountains within her aged heart 
seemed to well anew, for there were tears in her 
eyes when she raised them toward us. 

Waukena was the little girl that played around the 
stricken wigwam on the bayou, and she had treas- 
ured the stained shaft as a heritage from those she 
had loved. To her it was a sacred thing. The life 
currents it had changed had passed on, but they 
seemed to meet again as the gray haired woman sat 
before her flickering fire, with the mute toys of the 
fateful drama about her. We left her alone with 
her musings. 

When we came one evening, a week later, the 
door was open, but the ashes on the hearth were 
cold. On the rough table lay the mouldy skull, that 

[41] 



THE VANISHING EWER 

was once the home of relentless passion, and near it, 
before its eyeless caverns, was the blood stained 
shaft, with the silver point neatly fitted back into 
its place. 

Waukena may have stolen away through the soli- 
tudes of the dim forest, and yielded her tired heart 
unto the gods of her people, for she was never again 
seen in the river country. Her chastened soul may 
still wander in the shadowy vistas of the winter 
woods, when the sun sinks in aureoles of crimson 
beyond the lacery of the tall trees — that stand still 
and ghostly — their slender boles tinged with hues 
of red, like the lost arrow shafts of those who are 
gone. 

Sadly and thoughtfully we walked down the old 
trail that bordered the bayou. We sat for a long 
time on the moss covered bank and talked of the 
arrow and the destinies it had touched. The pearly 
disk of the full moon hung in the eastern sky. A 
faint mist veiled the surface of the softly lisping 
water. An owl swept low over the bayou into the 
gloom of the forest. The pond lilies had closed 
their chalices and sealed their fragrance for another 
day. Hosts of tiny wings were moving among the 
sedges. Fireflies gemmed the dark places and van- 
ished, as human lives come out of the void, waver 
with transient glow, and are gone. 

There was a tender eloquence and witchery in 
the gentle murmurings of the night. Mystic voices 
were in the woods. Beyond the other shore the 
hoary form of the Father of the Vines seemed trans- 

[42] 



THE SILVER ARROW 

figured with a holy light. From somewhere in the 
gloom of the grotto came the plaintive notes of a 
whippoorwill. 

As one crying in the wilderness, Nebowie's spirit 
was calling for her lost lover from among the em- 
bowered labyrinths. 

In the twilights of drowsy summers, the wild 
cadence still enchants the bayou. The moon still 
rides through the highways of the star strewn skies, 
and, with pensive luster, pictures the guardian of 
the trysting place of long ago. The shadows below 
the lofty forehead have deepened, and the great 
silent figure bends with the weight of the onward 
years. 

Out yonder, in the moonlit woods, 
With humble mien he stands, 
With the burden of the fruitage 
In his vine entangled hands; 
Where the hiding purpling clusters 
Are caught by silver beams, 
That revel in the meshes 
Of his leafy net of dreams. 
With the weariness of fulfillment, 
His tendril woven brow 
Is bowed before the mystery 
Of the eternal Why and How. 



[43] 



Ill 

THE BEASS BOUND BOX 



Ill 

THE BRASS BOUND BOX 

J EERY ISLAND was formed by one of the 
side currents of the river that wandered off 
through the woods and lowland and rejoined 
the main stream above the Big Marsh. 

The herons, bitterns and wild ducks swept low 
over the brush entangled water course and dropped 
into the quiet open places. Innumerable clusters of 
small mud turtles fringed the drift wood and fallen 
timbers that retarded the sluggish current. The 
patriarchs of the hard shelled brotherhood — moss 
covered and intolerant — spent their days on the 
half-submerged gray logs in somnolent isolation. 

Kingfishers, crows and hawks found a fecund 
hunting ground along the winding byway. Squirrels 
and chipmunks raced over the recumbent trunks, 
and whisked their bushy tails in the patches of sun- 
light that filtered through the interlacing boughs 
above them. 

At night the owls, coons, minks and muskrats ex- 
plored the wet labyrinths, aged bull frogs trumpeted 
dolefully, and stealthy nocturnal prowlers came 
there to drink. Sometimes the splash of a fish broke 
the stillness, and little rings crept away over the 

[47] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

surface and lost themselves among the weeds and 
floating moss. 

Long ago the trails of wolves, deer, and other 
large animals appeared in the snow on the island 
during the winter; bear tracks were often found, and 
there is a legend among the latter day prosaics that 
a couple of panthers once had a den in the neighbor- 
hood. In later years most of the winter pathways 
were made by foxes and rabbits and their human 
and canine pursuers. 

Near the bank of the main stream stood a de- 
cayed but well constructed old house. It was built 
of faced logs with mortar between them. There 
were three rooms on the ground floor, and some 
steep narrow stairs led into an attic next to the roof 
that sloped to the floor along its sides. 

My friend "Buck" Granger, a gray haired old 
trapper and hunter, whose grandfather built the 
house about a hundred years ago, ushered me up 
the creaky stairs late one night. 

The alert eyes of a red squirrel peered at us from 
the end of a tattered mink muff that lay on an oak 
chest close to the roof, and vanished. Apparently 
the small visitor was not greatly disturbed, for, 
after two or three gentle undulations, the muff was 
motionless. 

After conventional but cordial injunctions to make 
myself at home, Buck departed to his quarters below. 

The quaint and picturesque attic was full of inter- 
est. An old fashioned bedstead stood in the room, 
a cumbrous, home made "four poster." Over its 

[48] 



3f T/- ™ 




Familiar Haunts 



THE BRASS BOUND BOX 

cord lacings was a thick feather bed, several com- 
forters, and a multicolored patchwork quilt. The 
sheets and pillow slips were of coarsely woven linen. 

Bunches of seed corn and dried herbs were sus- 
pended from pegs along the roof timbers ; near the 
oak chest was a spinning wheel, and a broken cradle 
— all veiled with mantles of fine dust and cobwebs. 
The cradle, in which incipient genius may once have 
slumbered, was filled with bags of beans, ears of 
pop corn, and hickory nuts. Squirrels and white 
footed mice from the surrounding woods had held 
high revel in the tempting hoard. 

The cradle had guarded the infancy of many little 
furred families after its first usefulness had ceased, 
for there were cosy tangled nests of shredded cot- 
ton and woolen material among its mixed contents. 

Moths had worked sad havoc in the row of worn 
out garments that festooned the cross beams. Some 
rusty muskrat traps and obsolete fire arms were 
heaped in one corner, with discarded hats and boots. 

Close to the roof, near the edge of the unprotected 
stairway, was a tall silent clock. It was very old. 
Most of the veneering had chipped away from its 
woodwork, parts of the enameled and grotesquely 
ornamented dial had scaled off, and across the 
scarred face its one crippled hand pointed to the 
figure seven. The worn mechanism had not pulsated 
for many years. 

Innumerable tiny fibers connected the top and 
sides of the old clock with the sloping roof timbers, 
and a sinister watcher, hairy and misshapen — 

[49] 



THE VANISHING EIVEE 

crouched within the mouth of a tubular web above 
the dial. 

Tenuous highways spanned the spaces between the 
rafters. Gauzy filaments led away into obscurities, 
and gossamer shreds hung motionless from the 
upper gloom. There were mazes of webs, woven by 
generations of spiders, laden with impalpable dust, 
and tenantless. The patient spinners had lived their 
little day and left their airy tissues to the mercy of 
the years. Like flimsy relics of human endeavor, the 
frail structures awaited the inevitable. 

There was an impression of mistiness and haziness 
in the wandering and broken fibers, and the filmy 
labyrinths — as of a brain filled with fancies that 
were inchoate and confused — an abode of idle 
dreams. 

The web spanned attic pictured a mind, inert and 
fettered by dogma and tradition, in which existence 
is passive, and where vital currents are stilled — 
where light is instinctively excluded and intrusion 
of extraneous ideas is resented. Occupants of en- 
dowed chairs in old universities, pedantic art 
classicists, smug dignitaries of established churches, 
and other guardians of embalmed and encrusted 
conclusions, are apt to have such attics. Like the 
misshapen watcher within the tubular web abovo 
the dial, they crouch in musty seclusion. 

I opened the queer looking bed, that had evidently 
been made up a long time, and lay for half an hour 
or so, trying to read by the light of the sputtering 
candle. The subtle spell of the old attic at length 

[50] 



THE BRASS BOUND BOX 

overcame the charm of my author, and I gave myself 
over to a troop of thronging fancies. 

Although the invisible inmate of the muff gave 
a life accent to the room, the quiet was oppressive. 
A sense of seclusion from realities pervaded the 
human belongings. Intimate personal things, that 
only vanished hands have touched, seem to possess 
an indefinable remoteness — as if they pertained to 
something detached and far away — and lingered in 
an atmosphere of spiritual loneliness. 

When the moon beams came through the cob- 
webbed window frame, and crept along the floor to 
the ghostly old clock, it haunted the room with a 
vague impression of weariness and futility. It 
seemed to stand in mute and solemn mockery of the 
eternal hours that had passed on and left it in hope- 
less vigil by the wayside. 

The watcher in the web — grim and silent, like a 
waiting sexton — awakened uncanny thought. There 
was gruesome suggestion in the dark stairway hole 
at the foot of the clock — as if it had been newly dug 
in the earth. 

Like evil phantoms into an idle mind, a pair of 
bats glided swiftly in through the open window, 
circled noiselessly about, and departed. 

The moon rays touched something in the rubbish 
at the further end of the room that reflected a dull 
light. After restraining my curiosity for some time, 
I arose, crossed the floor, and picked up a strange 
looking box. It was about fourteen inches long, 
nine inches high, and a foot wide. Its hasp and small 

[51] 



THE VANISHING KIVER 

handle on the cover appeared to be of wrought iron, 
but the embossed facing that covered the sides and 
ends, and the strips that protected the edges, were 
of brass, studded with nails of the same metal. It 
seemed in the dim light to be much corroded by 
time. 

Hoping that something might be learned of its 
history in the morning, I placed the box on the floor 
near the bed, and was finally lulled to belated slum- 
ber by the crickets in the crevices of the logs, and 
the rustlings of tiny feet among the contents of the 
cradle. Speculations regarding the brass bound box 
softly blended into dreams. 

During breakfast the next morning my host told 
me that the box had once belonged to a Jesuit priest ; 
some Indians who formerly lived on the island had 
given it to his grandfather, and it had been in the 
attic ever since the house was built. He had often 
looked at its contents but could make nothing of 
them, and considered that ''they were not of much 
account." He said he would be glad to have me 
go through them and see if they were of any value. 
He also said that there was a bundle of old papers' 
in the oak chest that he hoped I would look over, as 
his grandfather had written much concerning the 
river and the Indians that might interest me. 

Filled with anticipation of congenial occupation 
during the rainy day, I went with Buck to the attic 
after breakfast. We dragged a decrepit walnut table 
to the window and dusted it carefully. Buck brought 
from the chest a small bundle that was tied up in 

[52] 



THE BRASS BOUND BOX 

brown paper and left it with me. The tenant of the 
muff had decamped, probably resenting the intru- 
sion into his domain. I brought the brass bound 
box, found a comfortable hickory chair, lighted 3 
tranquilizing pipe, and was soon absorbed in the 
stack of closely written manuscript that I found in 
the bundle. 

Some parts of it were illegible and the spelling 
was unique. The old man probably considered cor- 
rect spelling to be an accomplishment of mere lit- 
erary hacks, and that it was not necessary for an 
author who had anything else to think of to pay 
much attention to it. 

There was much information regarding the Indian 
occupation of the river country. It appeared that 
there were about fifty wigwams on the island when 
the red men were compelled to leave by the govern- 
ment. Most of them were taken to a reservation 
out west, and a number went to some lands of their 
kindred along the St. Joseph river in Michigan. 
Eventually a few returned and lived in scat- 
tered isolation, but their tribal organization 
was broken up. 

The head of the village on Jerry Island was a 
venerable warrior named "Hot Ashes." He was 
a friend of Buck's grandfather, and it was he who 
gave him the brass bound box when the Indians left. 
He said it had been brought to the island by the 
"Black Robe" many years before, and that he had 
left it in the mission house when he went away. 

The box had been treasured by the Indians, for it 

[53] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

was supposed for a long time to be a "great medi- 
cine," but when they departed they considered it a 
useless burden. There had been much misfortune 
after the Black Robe left and their faith in its 
powers gradually ceased. 

The going away of the kindly priest was much 
mourned by his dusky flock. He was supposed to 
have departed on some mysterious errand, and to 
have met fatality in the woods, but they were never 
able to find any traces of him. 

Hot Ashes believed that the Black Robe had a 
great trouble, as, before his disappearance, he neg- 
lected the work of his mission for several days, and 
walked about on the island, carrying a little bundle 
which he was seen to throw into the river the day 
he left. 

There was no further reference in the manuscript 
to the Black Robe, or to the brass bound box, which 
I now opened. 

There were two compartments, divided into sec- 
tions, one on either side of a larger opening in the 
middle. These contained various small articles. 
Two of them fitted low square bottles, one of which 
was half filled with a black powdery substance. On 
the label, that fell off when I removed the bottle, I 
deciphered the word ENCRE. Experiment justified 
the conclusion that the powder had been added to 
water when ink was needed. A dry coating on the 
inside of the other bottle indicated that it had been 
used for this purpose. 

In a larger section were some beads that were 

[54] 



THE BRASS BOUND BOX 

once a rosary, fragments of a silk cord that had held 
them together, and a crucifix. 

At the center of each end of the box, were half 
circular rests, probably designed to hold a chalice. 
The space contained a breviary, bound in leather, 
and much worn, some ink stained quill pens, a small 
box of fine sand that had been used for blotting, and 
some loosely folded papers. They consisted mostly 
of letters from the Superior of the Mission, and per- 
tained to routine affairs, suggestions regarding the 
work of the little mission, and congratulations on its 
successful progress. 

Comparison of the depth of the opening with the 
outside of the box revealed the existence of a secret 
space, and it was only after long study and experi- 
ment that I discovered the means of access to it. On 
lifting its cover I found a flexible cloth covered book 
and a letter enclosed in oiled silk, that was much 
tattered. 

The book, which was yellow with age, and frayed 
at the edges, contained closely written pages in 
French, many of them much faded, obscure, and in 
some places entirely obliterated. 

The chirography was in the main neat and 
methodical, but apparently the writing had been 
done under many varying conditions that made uni- 
formity impossible. Several small drawings were 
scattered through the text. Some of them showed 
considerable skill and care, and the others were 
rough topographic sketches and memorandums of 
routes. 

[55] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

The book was the journal of Pierre de Lisle, a 
young Jesuit missionary who left France in 1723 to 
carry salvation to the heathen in the remote wilder- 
ness of the new continent. 

The early entries related to his novitiate in Paris, 
his work in the Jesuit college, and the preparations 
for his departure for America. They reflected his 
hopes for the success of his perilous undertaking. 

There were vague references to a deep affliction, 
and to periods of heart sickness and mental depres- 
sion, by reason of which he had taken the long and 
difficult path of self denial and self effaeement that 
led him into the activities of the Society of Jesus. 

He had spent the required years in the subjugation 
of the flesh and the sanctification of mind and soul, 
when he went on board the vessel that was to take 
him to Quebec. 

In the hope of finding a clue to Pierre's sorrow, 
I extracted the letter from its silk covering. It had 
evidently been cherished through the vicissitudes of 
purification and the perils of arduous journeyings. 
It was signed by Marie d'Aubigney, and told of her 
love, that was undying but hopeless, and of her ap- 
proaching compulsory marriage to "M. le Marquis." 
His name did not appear in the letter. 

Mingled with the musty odor of the ancient mis- 
sive, I thought I detected a faint lingering perfume 
— at least there was one in the message, if not in 
the paper that bore it. 

Several pages of the journal were devoted to the 
tempestuous voyage across the Atlantic, and a 

[56] 



THE BRASS BOUND BOX 

gloomy week spent in the fog off the Grand Banks. 
The vessel finally reached Quebec, where Pierre re- 
ported to the Superior of the Canadian Mission. 

He and several other missionaries, accompanied 
by voyageurs and Indian guides, made a long and 
eventful trip up the St. Lawrence and Ottawa riv- 
ers to Georgian Bay. They skirted its shores to 
Lake Huron, where a violent gale scattered their 
boats, and wrecked two of them. 

After much danger and hardship the party landed 
on the wild coast, but the food supplies had been 
lost in the turbulent waters. In an attempt to find 
sustenance, Pierre and one companion wandered a 
considerable distance from the camp and lost their 
way in a snowstorm. They found an Indian vil- 
lage that had been depopulated by small pox, and 
took refuge in one of the squalid huts, where they 
were besieged by a pack of wolves for several days. 
Had it not been for some scraps of dried fish that 
they fortunately found in the hut, they would have 
starved. They were finally rescued, and Pierre 
ascribed their deliverance to St. Francis. 

The Indians succeeded in killing some game in 
the woods, and, after a hazardous journey, the party 
reached Mackinac. Pierre went from there to 
Green Bay. He stayed a few months and departed 
for the mission on the St. Joseph river, where he 
remained a year. 

The journal gave many details of his life as an 
assistant at this mission, where he baptized numer- 

[57] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

ous converts, and greatly increased the attendance 
at the mission school. 

In the hope of enlarging his usefulness, he sent a 
letter to Quebec, asking permission to found a new 
mission among the Indians inhabiting the river 
country south of the St. Joseph. With the doubt- 
ful means of communication the letter was a long 
time in reaching its destination, and he had about 
given up hope when a favorable reply came. 

With one of his converts as a guide, he departed 
for the field of his new labors. They ascended the 
St. Joseph in a canoe, made the portage from its 
headwaters, and descended the Kankakee. 

Frequent mention was made in the journal of the 
faithful guide, who proved invaluable, and of the 
beautiful scenery of the route. Camps were pitched 
on the verdant banks at night, but once, in passing 
through one of the vast marshes, they lost the un- 
certain channel and were compelled to sleep in the 
canoe. 

They stopped at a few Indian villages along the 
river and were received with kindness. The jour- 
ney was continued down stream beyond Jerry Is- 
land. The populous communities above and below 
that point commended it to his judgment. He re- 
turned and began the work of establishing his mis- 
sion. 

Although he found the manifold vices of pagan- 
ism in the villages, he was treated with bountiful 
hospitality. Successive feasts were prepared in his 
honor, in which boiled dog was the "piece de re- 

[58] 



THE BRASS BOUND BOX 

sistance." Willing hands assisted in the construc- 
tion of the mission house, and the date of the first 
mass was recorded in the journal. 

There was much sickness among the Indians when 
Pierre came, the nature of which did not appear. 
Orgies and incantations continued day and night to 
conjure away the epidemic. He performed the con- 
solatory offices of his church in the afflicted wig- 
wams. Soon after his arrival practically all of the 
sickness disappeared. Their recovered health con- 
vinced the credulous savages that the Black Eobe 
possessed a mysterious power, and the small bottle 
of black powder was thought to be a mighty magic. 

Ink has swayed the destinies of countless mil- 
lions, but here its potency seems to have played a 
strange role. 

Much of the journal was devoted to happenings 
that now seem trivial, but to the zealous disciple of 
Loyola — a protagonist of his faith on a spiritual 
frontier — they were of great moment. Detached 
from their contemporary human associations, 
events must affect the emotions or the interests of 
the mass of mankind if their records endure. 

Pierre assisted in the councils, gave advice on 
temporal affairs, and patiently inculcated the pre- 
cepts of his religion in the minds of his primitive 
flock. Impressive baptisms and beautiful deaths 
were noted at length. Converts who strayed from 
the fold, and were induced to return, were given 
much space. 

Here and there poetic reflections graced the faded 

[59] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

pages, and pious musings were recorded. Original 
verse, and quotations from favorite authors, that 
seemed inspired by melancholy hours, mingled with 
the text. The names of the various saint's days 
were often used as captions for the entries, instead 
of calendar dates. 

In the back of the book was a list of names of 
converts, dates of baptism, marriages and deaths, 
and a vocabulary of about three hundred words of 
the Pottowatomie dialect of the Algonquin language, 
with their French equivalents. Variations in the 
chirography indicated that the lists had grown 
gradually, as additions were made with different 
pens. 

A gloomy spirit seemed to pervade the dim pages. 
The broken heart of Pierre de Lisle throbbed be- 
tween the lines of the story of his life in the wil- 
derness. He had carried his cross to the far places, 
and, in isolation, he yearned for the healing balm 
of forgetfulness on his fevered soul. There were 
evidences of a great mental conflict among the last 
entries. He mentioned the arrival at the island of 
Jacques Le Moyne, a Jesuit priest, who was on his 
way to a distant post on the Mississippi, and spent 
several weeks with him. They had been boyhood 
friends in France and had entered the Jesuit col- 
lege at about the same time. His coming was a 
breath of life from the outer world. 

Le Moyne told him of tne death of the Marquis 
de Courcelles, whose existence had darkened 
Pierre's life, and all of the precepts, tenets, and 

[60] 



THE BRASS BOUND BOX 

pageantry of the Church of Rome floated away as 
mists before a freshening wind. 

Pierre was born again. The dormant life cur- 
rents quickened, and his virile soul and body ex- 
ulted in emancipation and new found hope. 

The entries in the journal closed with a sorrow- 
ful farewell to his spiritual charges, of which they 
probably never knew, and an expression of pathetic 
gratitude to his friend Jacques, who had opened a 
gate between desolation and earthly paradise, for 
warm arms in France were reaching across the 
stormy seas, and into the wilds of the new world 
for Pierre de Lisle. 

It seemed strange that he had left the journal 
and the letter of Marie d'Aubigney. He was prob- 
ably obsessed by his one dominant thought, and nat- 
urally excluded everything not needed for his long 
journey, but if his mind had not been much per- 
turbed and confused he might have taken or de- 
stroyed the journal, but he surely would have car- 
ried the precious letter with him. 

The little bundle that he threw into the river, the 
day he left the island, may have contained his sac- 
ramental chalice, for in it his lips had found bit- 
ter waters. 

He probably dissembled his apostasy and utilized 
such Jesuit facilities as were available in getting 
back to his native land, lulling his conscience with 
one of the maxims of the Society of Jesus — "the 
end justifies the means" — but be that as it may, the 
chronicles in the attic had come to an end. 

[61] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

I sat for a long time, listening to the patter of 
the rain on the old roof, and mused over the frail 
memorials. 

There is but one great passion in the world. With 
it all human destiny is entwined. Votaries of es- 
tablished religion have ever been recruited from the 
disconsolate. The gray walls of convents and mon- 
asteries have lured the heart stricken, and in remote 
fields of pious endeavor unguents have been sought 
for cruel wounds. In the waste places of the earth 
have been scattered the ashes of despair, but while 
life lasts, it somewhere holds the eternal chords. 
At hope 's vibrant touch the enfeebled strings awake 
and attune to the sublime strains of the Great Lyric. 

The faint echo of a song lingered in the brass 
bound box. The silk covered letter intoned a dream 
melody that the years had not hushed. 



[62] 



IV 



THE "WETHER BOOK" OF BUCK 
GRANGER'S GRANDFATHER 



IV 



THE "WETHER BOOK" OF BUCK GRANGER'S 
GRANDFATHER 

MY friend "Buck" told me something of his 
grandfather's history as we sat in the 
genial glow of the stone fireplace the 
evening after I had examined the contents of the 
brass bound box. 

The old pioneer, with his wife and two sons, had 
come west in 1810 and located on the island. He 
found many Indians there and his relations with 
them were very friendly. A small area was cleared 
and cultivated on the island, but the main source 
of livelihood was hunting, fishing and trapping. The 
woods and waters teemed with life and nature 
yielded easily of her abundance. 

The old man lived alone for many years after the 
death of his wife. His sons married and went far- 
ther west. Two years before he died one of the 
sons, Buck's father, returned with his wife and lit- 
tle boy, to the old home. Buck was now the only 
surviving member of the family. 

His recollections of his grandfather were rather 
vague. He remembered him as an old man with 
a white bushy beard, frowsy coon skin cap, ear 
muffs, and fur mittens. He had spent much time 

[65] 



THE VANISHING EIVEB 

with him fishing along the river, and in trips 
through the woods. From him he had learned the 
ways of the hig marsh, and much of the unwritten 
lore of the forest. His stories of the old pioneer 
gave an impression of one who was mueh given to 
having his own way, rather crusty at times, but 
whose sympathy and kindness of heart were often 
imposed upon by those who knew him. 

Buck said that in the old oak chest in the attic 
was a lot of stuff that had belonged to his grand- 
father. We went to the attic the next morning and 
took out of the chest the odd assortment of things 
we found in it. Most of them were of no special 
interest. There were some old account books, sev- 
eral cancelled promissory notes for small amounts, 
and a package of receipts. One note, payable to 
the old man, was marked across its face ' ' Debt for- 
given — Can't Collect." 

I was pleased to find a bag of Indian arrow heads, 
many of them beautifully made, a couple of spear 
heads, and a tomahawk. 

There was a section of a maple tree root, about 
a foot long, in the chest, that Buck said he had 
chopped out one winter in the woods near the 
marsh. A steel trap was imbedded in it, and be- 
tween the jaws were two bones of a coon's foot. The 
uneven hammer marks on the metal indicated that 
the trap was probably home forged. Buck had 
identified it as one belonging to his grandfather, and 
there were others like it in the chest. Apparently 
the victim had dragged the trap to the foot of the 

[66] 




The Old Log House 



THE "WETHER BOOK" 

tree, which it was unable to climb. He had died 
with his leg across the young exposed root that had 
grown around and through the mechanism, until 
only a portion of the rusty chain, the end of the 
spring, and the upper parts of the jaws that held 
the little bones remained. The story of the trag- 
edy was plainly told. 

In the bottom of the chest was a thick leather 
bound book. On the cover was some crude lettering 
in black ink, with labored attempts at ornamenta- 
tion. On removing the dust I deciphered the in- 
scription : 

WETHER BOOK— JOSIAH GRANGER 

Evidently its author had spent much time in keep- 
ing a record of the weather and of his life on the 
island. Innumerable thermometer readings filled 
columns at the right of the pages. After most of 
the dates were weather observations, comments on 
intrusive friends, and various things that had come 
within the sphere of a lonely existence. 

Diaries are pictures of character — unsafe reposi- 
tories of intimate personal things that enlighten and 
betray. Among the pages were traces of petty 
jealousies and much harmless egotism. Here and 
there were patches of sunlight, touches of irony and 
unconscious humor. At times a tinge of pathos 
shadowed the lines of the "wether book," and un- 
der it all was the human story of one who, in this 

[67] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

humble form of expression, had sought relief from 
solitude. 

As I perused the faded chronicles the figure of 
the old man, sitting before his fire at night, with 
his pipe and almanac, diligently recording the hap- 
penings of the days that passed in his little world, 
seemed a reality. 

The record covered a number of years, but ex- 
tracts from the entries of 1852 will convey a gen- 
eral idea of the contents of the old book. 

Jan 1st — This is the first of the yeare & I start 
in not very well. Cold prevales & a good dele of 
snow. Snow drifts stacked around the house. 
Cant see out. I stay mostly in my blankett. 

Jan 10th — Lots of snow. Froze hard last nite. 
Big wind. Stade in & must hole up for rest of win- 
ter if this keaps up. Rumetiziam bad. Hiram 
Barnes com today with feet froze. It is blowing 
bad. Looks worse outside. Moon eclips was pre- 
dicted for the 8th but nuthing of the kind sene. 

Jan 12th — I notis by my almanack Lady J. Gray 
behedded today in 1555 but what for does not say & 
hevy rain storms predicted but nuthing of the kind. 
It has never ben colder. I got to melt som more 
snow and get the pump going. She is froze hard. 

Jan 14th — Was out som today & it looks thawy. 
Thaw coming. Som deer traks on iland. Will get 
after deer soon. 

Jan 16th — Got a buck today & fixed the meat. 
Sunup & Sunsett both according to clock. Evry- 

[68] 



THE "WETHEK BOOK" 

thing on skedule. Som sweling white cloudds off: 
in W. The cold abates som. 

Jan 20 — We are geting storms in these parts & 
a good dele of wether comes at nite. Som days 
are cleare & cold with merkery stedy at Zero. The 
moon is around but nites dark & clouddy. Moon 
must hav ben full the 7th but not sene. 

Jan 31st — Month closes mild yet flying snow. 
Kiver ice som places over a ft. thick. This has 
ben a remarkabel month. Thare was too much 
wether in Jan. The merkery gets funny now and 
then. I dont think eny thermomter is akkerate. 

Feb 2nd — Big thaw has com & erly in the morning 
a shour of rain. Got a buck on the ice at the marsh 
& got the meat home late. This was yesterdy. 
Snow is all mushy. This has ben a quere day. It 
is now 5 P.M. 

Feb 3rd — Snow flurrys mixed with rain. Ice 
braking som. I heare meney cracks out on the 
river. As I sett down to rite in my wether book 
I beleve the back bone of the winter is broke. 

Feb 5-6-7-8-9-10 — Had 1 nice brite day & ever 
sence a whopping big storm. Big drifts. Cant see 
out. Must get some backake ointmint. Full moon 
was on the 5th. Good thing I got a lot of wood in. 
I notis in my almanack storms probabel this month 
& this is rite. 

Feb 15th — Out yesterdy & 20 inches snow in 
woods. Shot 3 patriches near the house. Wolves 
yelld all nite. Sene gese flying N. but they beter 
go back. It is warmer thow. Som deer crossed 

[69] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

river last nite. This is being a remarkabel month. 
Cool & misty air prevales as I rite. 

Feb 20 — I was down to the marsh. This was yes- 
terdy. Got 36 rats from 42 trapps. 2 trapps lost. 
Som rat houses near chanel butted out by ice mov- 
ing along. Sene som gese very high going N. One 
I think was a flock of swanns. Fogg & sleat ionite. 

Feb 21-22-23-24-25— All bad days. G. Washing- 
ton had a birthday on the 22nd. That was my birth- 
day too. The politicks would make him sick if he 
could see them now. Thares lots of dead pepil that 
would not like what is now going on, and we would 
not like som things they done if we was thare. 

Feb 28 — Snow most gone & hard rain. Lot of 
ice moving in river. I sene 4 flocks gese 5 of ducks, 
mostly bloobills. Thare has ben few deer this win- 
ter. I got 2 bucks & 1 doe all fat in good condi- 
tion & I got a small bear. This was over neare 
Wild Catt Swamp on the 18th & I forgot to rite it 
down. Old Josiah & the dog was thare on that 
date. 

Feb 29th — This is leap yeare. Hav not ben out 
today. I am geting throw the winter all rite. Feb 
a changabel month. It closes with foggs & high 
water. S. Conkrite com today on his way to the 
marsh. His noos is Ed Baxter & Fanny Noonan 
got marrid Jan 6th. Probly she asked him. 
Wether tonite looks thick. Cloudds both big & 
black are in the West. 

March 5th — Gese coming rite along now & thou- 
sans of ducks. Eats on the marsh ben prety fare. 

[70] 



THE " WETHER BOOK" 

Got a lot so far but probly will find prices bad. 
Your uncle Josiah was all over the oak tract in boat 
for malards. Got over 50. He had on his shoot- 
ing shirt. They was after the acorns in about 2 
ft. of watter. This was yesterdy. Meney ducks 
going on N*. & som gese gone too but som will stay 
& make nests. 

March 11th — 2 egals lit today on the iland & stade 
around all P.M. They may think of nesting heare. 
Old Josiah will take a popp at them. Dense cloudds 
are around. 

March 15th — I notis in my almanack big flodes 
all over the south & sweling rivers predicted. Big 
flode heare too as I rite & evrything overflode. 
River ice all gone. Lots of dead timber coming 
down & floting bushes. Most of the noos you read 
in the almanack is bad. On most all of the dates 
bloodshed & fires & famhis are notised & meney 
batels & deaths of Kings & Quenes. Funy no Jacks 
are spoken of. Shot 62 ducks 11 gese. Lost amini- 
tion on a big flock. Snipe are around & som plover 
coming in. Got 34 rats & a wolf. This was yesterdy. 
Saw 2 deer at Huckelbery Byou. They left on time. 
Thare was wild catt traks on the iland Monday 
morning after a lite bust of snow. Would like to 
get that cuss. He beter look out for the old man. 
His skin would make a good vest. Moon was full on 
the 6th but I ben busy rite along & not evrything 
ritten down. This is a bad day & I stade in. Awful 
hard rain going on as I rite. You get a buckett full 
in the face if you open the door. High wind & probly 

[71] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

a lot of dammage somwhare. It is now 8. P.M. & 
your uncle Josiah to bed. 

March 16th — Clearing wether. Was out but 
rumetiziam som worse. Lost aminition on 2 gese 
that flew over at evening. My almanack says the 
planatary aspecks for planting potattoes will be 
faverabel in 4 weeks now. I notis thare has ben a 
lot of small animils around. Som skunks & foxes. 
Must put out som trapps. 

March 20 — Clear brite & calm & no wether now 
for foar days. It is a new moon like a mellin rine 
tonite & I sene it over my left sholder. It hangs 
wet in the west & this menes rain. Fixed the 
chickin house against all skunks & foxes but weezels 
may get in. A wolf has ben around the iland. A 
fogg prevales tonite. 

March 21 — Bad day but it gets into spring now. 

March 22 — Good wether for ducks but they fly 
high. Beter for gese. Gusty looking sky tonite. 

March 24th — I went after them yesterdy. Got no 
ducks but it was good wether for them. Shot 22 
gese. Bad day for gese too. Got 40 rats. Perhaps 
a small snow tonite. Looks likely. 

March 26th^Got a boat full of rats. Will skin 
tomorrow. This was yesterdy I got the rats. Bad 
storm today. Cant see out. Wether foul & bad. 
Old Josiah gets mushrats all rite when he goes out 
in his little trapping boat. 

March 27th — Cold day. Thermomter busted 
March 10. Cant tell how cold it is but it is cold. 
The merkery must be way down. Lite bust of snow 

[72] 



THE "WETHER BOOK" 

as I rite. Must get som Magic Oil for stif joints. 

March 28th — River is froze along edges but open 
in the curent. Ducks & Gese moving thick. Big 
bunches went over today flying high. Som deer 
around. Must go after deer tomorrow. A lot of 
Jaybirds round the house. Crows & Jaybirds make 
rackett. Must hav quiet. Must get bag of small 
shot. 

March 30th — Got no deer yesterdy. Sene one but 
too far off. If could hav shot with a spy glass I 
could hav got him if I had one. Got som sasafras. 
Must cook som spring medicin. I now have all 
ingrediments. 

March 31st — Foggy today. Snipe around. Lite 
sprinkel of rain. Lost aminition on bunch of plover 
flying over. Chopped som wood. Caught 2 weezels 
& a skunk. This was yesterdy. Froggs are around. 
Got a new thermomter but I think it not akkerate. 
The merkery is red. Probly all rite for sumer 
wether. Am now taking Sistom Tonick. Good dele 
of baptist wether & som snow this month but in gen- 
eral a fine month. Ducks & gese hav ben thicker 
than hare on a dog & I done well on rats too. Got 
all trapps out of marsh & som not mine. Spring is 
rite on skedule. Tomorrow is April fools day & a 
lot of them are around. 

April 6-7-8-9-10 — All fare days with no wether, 
but a mushy bust of snow has com as I rite. On the 
9th was Good Friday. Our Lord was Crucufied in 
my Almanack on that date. That was a big mistake. 
I notis for 3 days sunup & sunsett late compard 

[73] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

with clock so hav sett clock. Sun & clock now on 
skedule acording to almanack & with my noon 
marker on the stump & notch in window sill evry- 
thing is all rite up to date. Your uncle Josiah knos 
the time of day. 

April 11th — I see that Henry Clay was born today 
in 1776. I was always a Henry Clay man. This is 
Easter Sunday the day on which Our Lord is Risen. 
Thare is a lot of pepil that should take notis. 

April 15th — Buds are well out & on skedule. 
Thare are freckels around the trees showing we had 
a hard winter. Froggs are around thick. It was 
bad wether for rats in Jan & Feb but they wintered 
well. I must go after supplys & som spring medicin. 
I got som bisness to tend to. 

April 18th — Must plant all gardin sass now. 
Moon is right tonite & this is the time. A man com 
up from Beaver Lake & says hard winter thare. 
Wm Hull a stedy helthy man of good bild & sober 
was froze with cold. He was coming home from mil 
& he lived over neare West Creek. This was Jan 
12th. He was found by 2 squas out after wood. 
He was found froze. He owed me som money. 
This was a bad day. Sky looks all chesy tonite. 

April 20th — Befoar sunup a lite spatter of rain 
that turned into bad storm with high wind. All this 
must dry out then must plant. Lots of herons nest- 
ing up to herontown this yeare same as usual in 
the sickamores. Your uncle Josiah was all in thare 
in a boat. A hooting owl was up the cottonwood 
last nite over the house. I got up with the gunn 

[74] 



THE "WETHER BOOK" 

& made a bloody mess of him. They cannot hoot 
above your uncle while he sleeps. 

April 24th — Jaybirds & crows ben jawing a good 
dele round the house & making a rackett & thare is 
a lot of fox squorls & coons bobbing around the 
Hand when the wether is still & a bear com across. 
Would like to get that cuss. Lots of wolves around. 
Big spring for ducks & gese but most hav left. 
Meny staying to bild nests. Must see in the attic 
what seeds I hav then must plan. Must plant erly 
stuff. It is now 5 P. M. 

April 26th — Got all seeds in yesterdy. Bobbins 
& Bloobirds & a lot of Woodpekers & Chipping 
birds are around & they are mostly bilding nests. 
I must plant som mellins. A good mellin in the 
shade on a hot day is a fine thing. Almanack pre- 
dicted April would be seasonable & this is rite so 
far. 

April 30th — Thares skunks on the iland maybe 
3 or 4. Froggs are prety noisy. Them crokers keap 
it up. Considrabel snipe around & some plover. 
April has ben a remarkabel month. Mostly wet but 
meney fare days. Thare was a lot of wether be- 
twene the 1st & 15th. Lots of froggs & enybody 
that wants a bullfrogg pie could get one rite heare 
if they went after it. This is the place. 

May 4th — No wether now sence the 30th. Fare 
& nether warm or cold. Florida & Iowa admited 
into The Union yesterdy in 1845. Them are twin 
states. The line of beens has sprouted & must look 

[75] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

out for Jaybirds they will get into these. The weeds 
will com along all rite. You Bet. 

May 5th — N. Bonapart died in 1821. He was a 
bad egg. 

May 8th — Sumery wether & fishing in the river 
is good. S. Conkrite was down & says he got a 
pike of 17 lbs. I got one of 19. Pike are thick. I 
can cetch all I want rite in front of the house & 
bass & cattfish. It is knoing whare they are. He 
can not tell me eny thing he is a wind bag. Old 
Josiah was not born yesterdy or the day befoar 
ether. 

May 10th — Vegetition greening up & evrything 
lively & on skedule. Pete Quagno & his squa com 
today to see how I was & if I had eny tobaco. Him 
& the other inguns down the marsh all had a bad 
winter. They got a lot of rat skins & coons & som 
Foxes. They et the bodies of all them animils & 
smoaked som. Thare is nuthing not et by savidges. 
Thare was a lot of sickness around thare. It shoured 
hard again to day as well as yesterdy & this may 
wash them off som. Unusual shours along with 
thunder & litening all P.M. Them inguns went back 
in the rain. 

May 12th — Plum blosoms plenty. Potattoes up. 
All sines say a hot sumer. Good meny snakes 
around som prety long ones. Som drizzel in the 
air as I rite. 

May 13-14-15-16-17— Spatters of rain a good dele 
now. Looks like a wet May if this keaps up. 

May 18th — Fishing prety good. Got a boatfull 

[76] 



THE "WETHER BOOK" 

of pike & bass yesterdy. I heare S. Conkrite has 
caught nuthing up to his place even if he uses netts. 
Must salt down som for winter. Thares lots of 
sukkers in the river. Evry litle while you get one 
& thare are a few eles. Must smoak som. 

May 19th — I put som 70 lbs. of fish in the pork 
brine that is all empty now. Must get another barel 
for pork in the fall. Sprinkels as I rite. 

May 23rd — Sombody stole my minnie box or it 
noted off. On this day my almanack says Capt Kidd 
a famous pirate was hung in London & this was rite. 
Thares a lot around now but not famous. Thick 
& sticky air tonite. 

May 25th — Think I sene a lite frost this morning. 
Funy for this time of yeare. Went after the skunks 
on the iland last nite & got som. The chickins & 
me do not want skunks around. I got 3 in trapps 
& 1 with gunn & 1 got me. You Bet. Thares too 
meney skunks. Som clouddy tonite with wobblie 
sunsett. 

May 27th — Foxes & skunks both got into the 
chickins last nite. Thares too meney of both & if 
the chickins would only roost in the trees. It is 
hard work to rase chickins & they get lots of things 
the mater with them. Frisky looking sky tonite. 

May 29th — Ed Baxter & his noo wife Fanny 
Noonan com today. It is hard to see why them 2 
got marrid. They wanted to see how I was & to 
borro som things. Ed has got a sqwint in one eye 
& I gues that is why he got fooled. Ed & her are 
both red hedded & she did not draw much when she 

[77] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

marrid him. I notis the temprature remains about 
the same with litle or no drop or rise. 

May 31st — These are fine days. S. Conkrite com 
down & I tell him I hav 4 barels of pike & bass that 
I caught & pikeled at odd times. He brought som 
noos. He says thare was timber theves working 
down the river all the winter & spring & them logs 
that went out was all stole. They was all cut by 
the theves & noted down to the Illinoi when high 
watter com. Next winter something will be done 
by the owners if they begin again. He says over 
a thousan logs was noted out & partys are not 
knone. Looks som like rain as I rite. He says if 
the theves get caught they will be convicted by the 
laws of both states. The sherifs hav all ben given 
notis. Almanack predicted May would be season- 
abel & this is rite. This has ben a remarkabel 
month. 

June 2nd — Fine still day but all fish biting stoped 
when it thundered in P.M. A swizzel of rain at 
evening. 

June 10th — All this month so far fine days & 
sumery. Eny who do not like this wether should 
have no wether at all. I got the gunn & blowed a 
noo hornet nest in the tree by the pump. Will not 
need them. They are worse than democrats. I 
notis flys are around. 

June 11-12-13-14-15 — All fine days, Nuthing 
hapened. 

June 17th — On this day in 1775 was the Batel 
of Bunker Hill. Bad day for England. Fish hav 

[78] 



THE ''WETHER BOOK" 

bit well. No wether to rite down. All fine. Your 
uncle Josiah enjoys this. I must tell S. Conkrite 
of a catt fish I sene in the river today 4 ft long. 
This fish was probly 6 ft if he sene it when it passed 
his place. It was slopping in the shallo watter out 
on the sand bar. It was probly astonished at all 
my empty medicin botles that are all over the botom 
out thare. 

June 27th — It rained catts & dogs & pitchforks 
today & I fore saw this in the wether breeding 
cloudds of last nite. A hooting owl was around 
but too dark to bust him. Joseph Smith the Mormon 
Prophet murdered in the almanack today in 1844. 
Som wife troubel probly. 

June 30th — Good month all through. Potattoes 
begin to carry buggs. Must brush them off. June 
is a bugg month. Gardin fine if the woodchucks 
would keap out. Shot severil & will shoot these 
rite along. Must get them off the iland |& the 
skunks too. You Bet. Coppery looking sunsett 
tonite. 

July 2nd — Geting hot wether. I do not kno whare 
all the potattoe buggs are from. Thare must be a 
big bugg town somwhare that they all hale from. 
"We need som rain. The moon is now full. 

July 4th — This is the Nation's birth day but thare 
are too meney forriners. J. Podnutt S. Conkrite 
& Amos Horner Ed Baxter & Peleg S. Mason all 
com down. I think Podnutt is a forriner. Thares 
lots of miskitos now & they bit well in the shade & 
plenty of flys. These men all say it has never ben 

[79] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

so dry. Thares no watter up the hyous & the 
marsh is drying out. Conkrite says thare are big 
fish left swiming in puddels back in the woods whare 
the watter went down & left them in April & he 
says pike & bass as long as your arm are thare. 
I tell him he beter drop some salt in them puddels. 
Tally 1 for old Josiah. Sam Green & a man named 
Wasson com in the P.M. to see if thare was eny 
hay around. Wasson I think is a forriner. On Jan 
5th 1828 it says in the almanack the Turks banished 
all forriners from their empire. Thare was too 
meney thare like thare is heare. Green says catel 
not geting filled on grass yet can live. When my 
tobaco was gone these men all left in boats. They 
went home by bugg lite at nite. Such a pack of 
lies hav never ben told as today. I think Wasson 
should cut som whiskers this fall. It is prety hot 
as I rite & thare is too much tumoil & visiting & 
too much going on heare & thare. Thares too much 
passing to & fro. Thares too meney flys & thares 
too dam meney pepil. God bless all departing trav- 
elors. I rite this on the 5th. 

July lltli — It has never ben hotter even in the 
shade. Hamilton & Burr had a duel this day in 
1804. Burr was a good shot but a bad man. For 
a week it has ben to hot to rite in my wether book. 
& the nites are sticky. 

July 12th — We are having a bad dry spell & I 
fore saw this erly in the month. Only 1 lite spurt 
of rain sence erly June. I stay in the shade for I 
do not want eny body to get sun struck. This is a 

[80] 



THE "WETHER BOOK" 

big miskito month & they are at it constant. Eny 
body that wants miskitos & natts can get them rite 
heare. Take notis. This is the place & dog days 
is the time. 

July 13 — Hottest we ever had. At Nantuckett 
rite close to the watter 300 bildings burnt today in 
1846. Took fire from the sun probly. A big snap- 
ping turkel was around the pump today. Maybe he 
was chased out of the river by the heat. 

July 15th — My almanack says Jeruselum was 
taken today in 1029. It is probly hot thare now. 
If the almanack would go as far foreds as it goes 
back it would be a valubel record. It says also W. 
Penn died in 1718 on the 20th. I keep my almanack 
heare with me in the shade. Penn was a grate man. 
I com from his state. It has never ben so hot as 
sence the 10th. Your uncle Josiah has got the 
thermomter on the tree by the pump now to cool 
it som. 

July 16-17-18-19-20 — When it is hot I sett genraly 
out of the sun & smoak. That old yellow pipe is 
prety hot & it works all day. This has ben going 
on for a week now. You can lite a match by stick- 
ing it in the river now if you want to. It is sissing 
hot. You can cook eny thing by setting it out doors. 
No frost in the air now. You Bet. I wattered all 
gardin sass from the river with a buckett at evening 
& all grows well, but some probly cooked. The mer- 
kery will hav to climb the tree if this keaps up. 

July 31st — Too hot to rite in wether book. Still 
dry. I mostly stay down by the pump & the flys 

[81] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

like this. I slep out on the grass sence the 15th & 
the miskitos liked that. This has ben a remarkabel 
month. 

Aug. 1st — In August on the 1st in 1798 was the 
Batel of the Nile so my almanack says. Must have 
ben hot out on the watter in Egipt at that time. 
Meteors which are bals of fire in the sky are pre- 
dicted for August. They should begin dropping 
soon & your uncle Josiah will keap his eye open. 
It is so dry now that Ed Baxter says the mushrats 
hav all left the marsh & they are all going out round 
the country for watter to qwench their thirst. He 
says thare are cases whare they went to wells & 
fell in & 1 com to the watter buckett in his house. 
Bad sumer for rats. A good catt nap in the shade 
is a fine thing now. 

Aug. 2nd — This is Monday & I have stade in the 
shade now sence this thing commenced. This wether 
will probly blister the buggs off the potattoes. They 
wont get off no other way until it gets cool if they 
are waiting for your uncle to brush them. Every- 
thing well het up. Lots of smoak. Big fire in the 
woods somwhare I bet. 

Aug. 5th — Nuthing ritten now sence the 2nd. 
Thare is thunder off in the west tonite & she is com- 
ing up. Som wind & all sines say a soking storm 
of rain. 

Aug. 7th — Raining hevy as I rite. Rained all nite 
long & yesterdy. Must patch the roof som. Had to 
put a buckett under a leak last nite. Good thing 

[82] 



THE "WETHER BOOK" 

I got plenty of bucketts. Litening struck all around 
in woods hard all nite. 

August 9th — Awful rains sence the nite of the 
5th. We are geting too much rain. Seems like 
something has busted up above and all thare is is 
coming down. Som should be saved up & sprinkeled 
along the rest of the calender. What is the use of 
all this. This is a very wet time. Thare are no 
flodes predicted for this time of the yeare. I must 
read the bible som if this keaps up & bild an ark. 
This is a grate lesson to us all. In 1812 on this 
date a caravan of 2000 Turks from Mecca was de- 
stroyed in the Desert by lack of watter. I bet they 
wished they had som of this. Too bad all the Turks 
were not thare. All Turks are wicked men & it says 
som whare in the bible that they shall have their 
part in Hell Fire. Hell Fire & Turks will mix well. 
The litening was after your uncle again last nite. 

August 10th — Clearing now with som wind & 
again warm. Looks wet in the west. Thares watter 
enough to swim the young ducks around now all 
rite & plenty of it for eny body that wants it. My 
potattoe buggs all floted away. This shows that 
trubels of all kinds will quit som time if you wait & 
do nuthing. You could swim all over the country 
now. Ed Baxter & S. Conkrite com in a boat today 
to see how I was & if I was still above watter & to 
borro tobaco & cowcumbers. When eny body corns 
around it is always somthing for them. They both 
say They never sene so meney snakes around as this 
yearc. Ed Says he killed 4 rattlers & Conkrite says 

[83] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

he got 6. These men will both see more snakes next 
year than they did this if they do not quit. Conk- 
rite's biggest snake was 5 ft with 6 ratles. I showed 
them a skin I took off of 6 ft with 9 ratles & they lit 
som more of my tobaco & told of erly days. I notis 
they all get into the trees when your uncle Josiah 
comences to talk. His feet are mates & he drinks 
nuthing but pump watter. Snakes do not com 
around him much but when they do they are Whop- 
pers. Drizzeled som at nite. 

Aug. 15 — It is hot again & the Old Bull Eye now 
glares stedy on the crops. Thare was a pop corn 
sky last nite. No cloudds today. Full bugg lite at 
nite. 

Aug. 21st — Thare com up a hale storm today that 
was over in 5 minits with hale stones big as pidgun 
eggs & a strong wind that would blow bark off a 
bass wood. I do not kno whare it com from. Som- 
thing must hav hapened up above to do all this. 
Hale turned to rain & it drizzels as I rite. Meney 
litle ded todes & froggs are all over the iland whare 
they probly rained down. Maybe fish & small live 
stock will com next. 

Aug. 22nd — Cleared off all rite but cloudds in the 
north look like wether breeders tonite & it is a 
mackral sky all over. Ed Baxter & Conkrite com 
today in a boat that looks like the one that got loose 
& floted off away from my place 3 years ago. It 
is now painted up & the ores changed. They com 
to see how I was & to borro som big fish hooks for 
their sett lines. I tell them to use an axe for big 

[84] 



THE "WETHEB BOOK" 

fish sanje as I do. Could not find eny hooks after 
I sene that boat. My eye sight got bad. The old 
man's mind is foggy. He does not kno how to do. 

Aug. 31st — Your uncle Josiah went down to the 
marsh yesterdy to see how mushrats are. They 
sumered well. Young ones are thick & well grown 
& geting lots of clams. Meney wood ducks around 
& the ducks hatched in the marsh all are flying 
well. Cloudded up at nite & had a dark time geting 
back. The moon was around but it was so dark a 
cat could find nuthing. Thares an awful lot of new 
thick grass in the marsh. I do not like watter with 
so much whiskers on it. This has ben a quere month 
& thermomter has jumped around a good dele. This 
has ben a remarkabel month. 

Sept. 1st — The meteors in my almanack did not 
fall in August & predictions not reliabel. Nuthing 
of the kind around. It is geting along toreds fall. 
Pidguns are around. They broke som ded lims on 
the Hand this week whare they roosted. Thares 
slews of them. This is a good yeare for pidguns. 
I got 33 with 2 shots. They did not kno that your 
uncle Josiah was around with a gunn. I notis in 
my almanack Oisters are now in season. Nuthing 
of the kind around heare. 

Sept. 4th — Soon after sunup it looked like streky 
black cloudds up above but it was pidgun flocks com- 
ing south. Pidguns are all over now. Big droves 
roosted around last nite. I must salt down som. 
They are in the woods after the young akerns. 

[85] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

Pidguns still going over. Cant tell if it is clouddy. 
Warm day thow. 

Sept. 10th — Must get a noun pupp. Old Tike 
is geting wobblie in the nose & lie looses his nose 
now & then. He is sick som & not lively. He is a 
good dog but he has erned his money. He is now 
going on 13 yeares & has ben over the country som 
sence I had him. S. Conkrite had some pupps last 
week & I must go up. They may be all spoken for 
thow. Must get som supply s & som backake oint- 
mint. Hell I broke my pipe. Wether breeding 
clouds in the west tonite as I rite. 

Sept 12th — A sorel mare was stolen by 2 men & 
a buggy Tuesday nite from Ed Baxter who had just 
bote the mare. They caught these men over 18 
miles off on the Hickery Top Road & they are now 
locked in jale. He was down at evening to see how 
I was & to get some eggs. The sherif & a possy was 
what nabbed the theves. I hear from Ed that Henry 
Clay died last June & that a chese facktory & brick 
kill are to be bilt neare West Crick. I fore see a 
church next. This country is geting too much setled 
up. Thares too dam meney pepil. It rained som 
today but cleared at noon. Ed had a lot of noos. 
He went off home by bugg lite about 9. He kep me 
up. I rite this on the 13th. 

Sept. 14 — A wolf has ben on this iland frequent 
& has ben after chickins & eny thing he can get. I 
set a trapp & he turned it over & got the bate evry 
time. Last nite I set it botom sid up & he turned 
it over & I got that cuss. He did not kno the trapp 

[86] 



THE " WETHER BOOK" 

was botom upwards & he was astonished. You can 
not fool much with your uncle Josiah. Som drizzel 
in the air tonite & som colder. It is geting into fall 
all rite. I kno whare 2 bee trees are. Your uncle 
has them spotted. Thare will be honey heare in 
about a week. You Bet. 

Sept. 17th — The merkery took a sudden jump & 
it is hot as July & August. I slep out on the grass 
last nite. A good mush mellin in the shade is a fine 
thing now. Conkrite & Baxter com yesterdy when 
I was not within & left a buckett they borowed Sat- 
urday to take down the river. I must put a date 
on that for its the first thing they ever brought 
back. 

Sept. 20th — I got a cubb bear that was 1-2 in & 
1-2 out of a bee tree after honey & got him home 
well chained with a colar. I got about 60 lbs honey. 
This was yesterdy & the day befoar. The animil 
eats well & acts tame but scared. I name him Jim 
Crow. 

Sept. 21st— S. Conkrite & Ed Baxter & Wife com 
today to see how I was & to see if I got eny honey 
yet. They are rite on skedule. Also they wanted 
to borro som small shot & to get som fouls. Ed's 
wife made beleve she was scared of the bear. 
Probly so Ed would save her from it. Conkrite says 
he got a wild catt over to the swamp that was 37 
inches tip to tip. I got one 40 inches last winter 
that I spoke nu thing of. Mine was a feerce animil. 
Conkrite blows a good dele. The pupp I got from 
Conkrite houls all the time & has et his hed off up 

[87] 



THE VANISHING RIVEE 

to date. Jim Crow got a peice of the pupp yesterdy 
when he got neare. The pupp tried to bite Conkrite 
& I think this shows he was treated bad at home. 
I asked Conkrite about pork for winter pikel but 
he semes to think my place is whare money dripps 
off the roof & shakes out of the trees. At killing 
time it will be diferent. Ed Baxter says he has 
dug a deeper well. His other he says is full of 
mushrats that com for watter in dry spell in July 
to qwench their thirst & now living thare. I tell 
him to sett & fish for them with a pole. It is now 
8 P.M. & your uncle is reddy for his blankett. 

Sept. 25th — I went after supplys. Old Josiah now 
has plenty of evrything. Thare is Backake Remedy 
Foot Ointmint Magick oil for Stif Joints & Pain 
Killer & 2 kinds of Bitters & Sistom Tonick & pills 
both blue & pink. I got Condition Powders for 
chickins if sick. I got som tobaco black as Egipt 
for those who com to borro. It is strong enough 
so you can pull nales with it. I got all they had 
and some candels. Jim Crow is well & he likes all 
swete things. I got Jim som stripped candy 3 sticks. 
The Pacific Ocean was discovered in 1513 by my 
almanack on this day. Funy they missed it befoar. 
When I com by Ed Baxter's place last nite the boat 
that used to be mine got loose & com along down 
with me. I find certain marks on it that I will show 
Ed. I reckonize my own boat & it now seeks its 
home. A drizzel of mosture as I rite. I tended to 
a lot of bisness today. Conkrite says the Sistom 
Tonick I ben buying is loaded but does not say what 

[88] 



THE "WETHER BOOK" 

with. He says mix a lot of pump watter with it & 
not take to much or darkness will com. 

Sept. 28th — The wether stays moist. Today in 
1828 in the almanack the sultan proceeds to the 
Turkish Camp with the sacred standard. Probly 
stole from som whare. 

Sept. 29th — These cold stormy drizzels may bring 
in a few ducks. Would like som ducks. Moon full 
last nite but not sene. 

Oct. 1st — Sept. was a quere month without much 
wether ether way. Oct. now opens clear with frost 
that nipped the vines last nite. Had the pupp out 
for a run on rabbitts. His nose is good & he may 
learn. I never sene a good dog that com from S. 
Conkrite's yet. Was down to the marsh yesterdy 
& meney noo rat houses. They are bilding thick & 
high & this menes a hard winter & high watter in 
the spring. All sines say a hard winter. Snipe are 
skitting around & thare is a lot of mudd hens & 
loons in the marsh. 2 deer swum the marsh & dove 
into the timber. They kno when Old Josiah has 
got a gunn & when he left it home. Sam Green & 
his friend Wasson com in a boat tonite to see how 
I was & to get som honey. The pupp bit Wasson. 
Tally 1 for the pupp. These men also wanted to 
borro tobaco. Gave them som of the black. I tell 
them smoaking that kind makes me strong. 

Oct. 6th — Stormed & I stade in. Conkrite com 
in the rain to see how I was & to borro powder & 
see if I had eny thing in my medicins for boils. He 
says he com yesterdy & nocked but I was not within. 

[89] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

I was then in the woods traning the pupp. His 
noos is Ed Baxter claims he has 2 twins that com 
erly this morning & I bet they look like young mush- 
rats. He spoke of pork but old Josiah is keaping 
prety still until after the snow flys. He says of 
Ed's twins they are both boys & red hedded. 
Thares too meney Baxters now. S. C. Says them 2 
twins will be named James & John. 

Oct. 12th — In the full of the moon & on a frosty 
nite your uncle Josiah goes after coons & I note this 
down. It will be the 27th if nite is clear. I notis 
Columbus landed today in the almanack in 1492. He 
was the first of the f orriners. 

Oct. 18th — Nuthing happened sence the 12th, but 
last nite a killing frost & today a swizzel of rain 
& sleat with N.W. wind. This will bring down 
ducks & gese. Stade in today & clened up shot gunn 
& rifel & all trapps. Saw to all aminition. Evry- 
thing all fixed up as I rite. Put all potattoes & 
vegitibels in sod celer & evrything all tite up to 
date. Cleared off som today & som ducks are com- 
ing & som gese are in the sky. Unusual wether for 
Oct. Gese honks all nite long as I slep. This was 
last nite. I got 25 lbs tobaco in the sod celer too. 
When I need tobaco this winter I kno whare som is. 

Oct. 19 — Blowing strong from N.W. Rain & 
sleat. Sky all speckeled with ducks & gese. They 
are coming in slews now. Gese honk all nite can 
not sleep. Active wether will come rite along now. 
No more lofing for your uncle Josiah. He gets on 

[90] 



THE " WETHER BOOK" 

his sheap skin coat now. Take notis. He is in the 
field. 

Oct. 20-21-22-23-24-25—1 ben busy all this time. 
Josiah is around with a gunn. He makes fethers 
fly & he fetches in the birds. Fine gese & duck 
wether. The marsh is black with them evry morn- 
ing at sunup. The Irish Rebelion was on the 23rd 
of this month in 1641. They begun coming heare 
then. 

Oct. 30th — Duck & Gese wether has stoped & 
ingun sumer is upon us. I fore saw this. They 
are around som whare but shooting is poor. No 
duck & gese wether for a while yet. I stoped at S. 
Conkrite 's. I got to hav pork, but he said nuthing 
of pork & neither did your uncle Josiah. He has 
9 squeeling around all fat in good condition. 

Oct. 31st — This has ben a remarkabel month & 
changabel at times as almanack predicted. Jim 
Crow is well. He has et well. I see hevy bunches 
of cloudds in west that I fore see will breed duck 
& gese wether as I rite. I notis in my almanack 
that meney thousans of pepil died of sickness in 
India at this time of the yeare in 1724. Thare is 
too many, pepil. No sickness heare much at eny 
time. This is a helthy section only 3 died in 5 
yeares. I see deer are around. 

Nov. 2nd — Althow a stormy day Ed Baxter com 
in P.M. to see how I was & to get honey & som 
tobaco if I hed eny. He told all the noos of them 2 
twins James & John & you would think nobody ever 
had eny befoar. It is all about them 2 red heds 

[91] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

all the time how they et & how they are smart & 
how much they way. All the branes in the country 
are setled in James & John. He says he will bring 
them & show me. They must be som site & I will 
be struck blind in 1 eye probly. You would think 
the world had com to the end in them 2 & they was 
Danl Webstor. Thare was an awful famin in Italy 
in the yeare 450 when parents et their children. 

Nov. 3rd — Lite snow bust in the nite & I found 
bear traks all around this morning. Som friend com 
to see Jim Crow probly. The pupp now sleeps 
with Jim in the dog house & he howld in the nite. 
Som rain sputtering as I rite. 

Nov. 4th — Roring wind from the North today. A 
hevy sky & sleat. I notis meney duck flocks & gese. 

I will be busy now rite along. Must get a deer. 
A little venzon rite now would be fine. Your uncle 
Josiah has apitite for som. 

Nov. 6th — Got a buck rite on the Hand. They will 
go poking their heds in the window to get shot if 
I dont watch out. This was yesterdy. Jim Crow 
is loose now & spends time mostly on the roof & 
up the cottonwood. He was in the chickins Tuesday 
nite & today he was in the house & upsett things. 
Might as well be a horse loose in the house. Must 
put him back on chain. If you want to keap busy 
you want to keap a bear. He is a quere cuss & 
probly smells the honey. She still blows & tomorro 
I go for ducks. Wish I had all the lead I spattered 
around on that marsh in my time. Must have raised 
the watter som. 

[92] 



THE "WETHER BOOK" 

Nov. 7-8-9-10-11-12 — Was on the marsh all these 
days & tired at nite. Wether lite winds & drizzeley. 
No finer duck & gese wether ever sene. Your uncle 
was among them & he shook them loose. I com in 
wet tonite & must sett around a while. I see traks 
showing sombody has ben heare. Probly Conkrite 
or Ed Baxter to see how I was & to borro somthing 
& tell me of them 2 twins. Must wrap up in my 
blankett & take som strong medicin. I got a cold 
& I got wether pains. Will stay in & rite in my 
wether book. On Nov. 9th in 1837 the quene of 
England dined at Guildhall. Good meal probly. 

Nov. 13 — When your uncle Josiah takes medicin 
he doses up. I took 4 kinds today & kep my feet 
hot with my watter jug. I got a good fire. Storms 
hevy outside but that does not hurt me eny. I read 
all it says on all my medicin botles & I can get 
nuthing they will not cure. I got Jim Crow & the 
pup£ in the house for company now. They sleep 
mostly. When they awake they make troubel. I 
fore see that these animils must be put out. 

Nov. 14th — Somthing I took yesterdy or last nite 
has helped som. I slep well. Probly it was 1 of 
the bitters. Snow prevales outside & she falls hevy 
as I rite. I put Jim & the pupp out. Thare was 
too meney in the house. Jim has got honey coam 
& the pupp has got bones in the dog house so they 
are hapy. Nobody could want more than that unless 
they are crazy about money. 

Nov. 15-16-17 — I stade within mostly on these 
days. We are having a spell of wether. My bitters 

[93] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

& my Sistom Tonick are most gone but I still got 
plenty of 2 kinds that I take internal & 3 kinds to 
rub on. Wolves howl around a good dele at nite. 
I keap my sasafras tea het up rite along but the 
bitters do most of the work. They are strong stuff 
& have som get app to them. Sky is full of ducks 
& gese do a lot of honking over the house. Probly 
to twitch me while I cant get out. Your uncle feals 
som beter but he is wise. He will not go out too 
soon. It would be beter for som body to go that 
would not be so much loss. 

Nov. 18 — S. Conkrite com today to see how I was 
& wanted to trade me a nice fat hogg for Jim Crow 
& I done this. Jim is geting a litle sassy & Conk- 
rite's will be a good place for him. Will now hav 
pork to put in pikel & to smoak. He is to kill the 
pork & bring it & after that is to take Jim home. 
I fore see that Jim will make troubel. I am up & 
around all rite now. Must go after supplys of 
bitters & Sistom Tonick soon & I must get a chese. 
A smitch of chese helps out a meal. Looks wethery 
tonite & snow probabel. 

Nov. 19th — S. Conkrite com today with the pork 
& it is good pork. We fixed a crate to put Jim Crow 
in & he made a lot of fuss. Them 2 looked funy 
going off in the boat. Cold & freezing som & ducks 
& gese have lit out. Thare are deer around thow. 
I made soft soap today. 

Nov . 20th — Ed Baxter com in P.M. to see how I 
was & to hang som meat in my smoak house. When 
he sene the soft soap he wanted to borro som. 

[94] 



THE "WETHER BOOK" 

Probly to wash them red hedded twins. S. Conk- 
rite also com at evening & Sam Green & Wasson 
all with pork to smoak. I got lots of friends. My 
pork must pikel a while befoar it smoaks but I got 
to fire up the smoak house now for these men's 
pork. They all like this because its something for 
them. Ed told a lot about them twins. Thare has 
never ben such twins. Conkrite's noos is Jim Crow 
got away. The traks stade around the chickins a 
while & then went to the woods whare fethers were 
found. Lite sift of snow to nite. The Cape of 
Good Hope was doubled in the almanack today in 
1497. Quere they wanted 2 capes thare. 

Nov. 21st — Jim Crow was up the cottonwood this 
morning when I went out. Him & the pupp are now 
in the dog house. Conkrite will probly com after 
Jim. She snows & blows hevy as I rite. 

Nov. 23rd — My smoak house is well knone. Pete 
Quagno & 2 other inguns com today to see about 
puting things in it but I tell them I want to kno 
what they are. They say all sines show a hard 
winter coming. No danger of them inguns stealing 
my soft soap. Your uncle Josiah is now all well 
& feals fine. He was all over the iland today. He 
could pull up a tree or kick the chimbly off the house 
if it had to be. I notis too meney small animil 
tracks on the iland & I will now tend to these. The 
pupp is fine & he now goes with me. Lite snow 
last nite & I see a wild catt has ben across and I 
would like to get his fur. 

Nov. 25th — Yesterdy I stade within with my med- 

[95] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

icins as I did not feal so well. I got a stummick 
misry. Conkrite was down & took Jim Crow back 
today. I do not think Jim likes Conkrite. He tried 
to get a peice out of Conkrite when they was in the 
boat. Me & Jim always got along all rite ; Snow 
is faling. 

Nov. 26-27-28 — Snows all the time now. She dont 
know when to quit. My almanack says Gr. Washing- 
ton crossed the deleware Nov. 28th. It missed say- 
ing what yeare but he got whare he wanted to go. 
Moon was full on the 26th but not sene. 

Nov. 29th — S. Conkrite com with som meat to 
smoak today & it looks like bear meat. I fear Jim 
Crow is now in the smoak house. That man knos 
nuthing of how to keap pets. I was off in the 
woods when Conkrite com but I kno it is Jim all 
rite. He was a fine bear & affecksionet. I wish 
Conkrite had his dam pork back & I had Jim Crow. 

Nov. 30 th — That meat is not Jim at all for Jim 
is back & up the cottonwood this morning. He did 
not want to com down but him & the pupp are in 
the dog house as I rite. Jim likes it around heare. 
Mackarel sky tonite & changing wether probabel. 
Nov. a remarkabel month all through. 

Dec. 1-2-3-4-5-6 — I ben f ealing porly now som time 
with the misry in my stummick. Tried som of all 
my internal medicins & feal som beter today. Hav 
rubbed my Rumatiziam with Pain Killer & took 
pills both blue & pink that are for liver complaint. 
Poor old Tike was sick too. I gave him the box 
of condition powders I got in the fall for the chickins 

[96] 



THE ''WETHER BOOK" 

but he quit that nite. This was on Saturday the 
4th. The powders may not hav kep well or maybe 
not good for a dog. I lost my best friend. Bad 
wether now. I think animils should have no med- 
icin at all of eny kind. 

Dec. 7th — Ed Baxter com today to see how I was 
& to get his smoaked pork. I promis to take Christ- 
mas diner with Ed & Wife. I must take presents 
for James & John. Likely a buckett of soft soap 
will be good for them 2. Looks gusty & snowy tonite. 

Dec. 8th — S. Conkrite & Green & his friend Was- 
son all com to see how I was today & get their 
smoaked stuff. Conkrite says would like me to 
keap Jim Crow a while longer for he is too meney 
up to his place. This I will do for Jim & me get 
along fine. Jim went up the cottonwood when he 
sene Conkrite. Thares too meney smoak houses 
on this iland & too much smoaking going on for 
other pepil. Snow storm slanting from the north 
west & drifting som as I rite. I fore saw this last 
nite. I think Conkrite is the one that is too meney 
up to his place instid of Jim Crow. I got wether 
pains in both back & legs now. 

Dec. 9th — Now she snows. Big drifts. Can not 
see dog house from window. I now got Jim Crow 
& the pupp in the house. My wether pains som 
worse. Must stay in my blankett. 

Dec. 10th — A soft thaw has come on sudden. A 
warm sun prevales & evrything all slushy. Good 
wether for wet feet. Your uncle still stays within. 

Dec. 12th — Both S. Conkrite & Ed Baxter com 

[97] 



THE VANISHING EIVEB 

today & brought me a new almanack for next yeare. 
This is the first time they ever com that it was not 
somthing for them. They said I don litle favers for 
them & they would like to make me this litle present. 
This all shows that if you keap being good to pepil 
all your life some day they will bring you a nice 
litle almanack. Probly they will want somthing next 
trip. I gave them som Sistom Tonick & they liked 
that. Ed Spoke of them 2 twins & they are both 
well & awful smart. He asked if my smoak house 
was still in good working order & if my hens ben lay- 
ing well lately & if I had plenty of potattoes on 
hand. 

Dec. 13th — Them 2 inguns that come heare last 
with Pete Quagno & his squa com today & their 
noos is that Pete & his squa are both sick & wanted 
tobaco. I sent Pete 2 pink pills. Them 2 inguns 
wanted me to send Pete & his squa a big lot of 
tobaco by them but they did not know that your 
uncle Josiah was setting around smoaking befoar 
eny of them was born. 

Dec. 14th — Last nite I read in my noo almanack. 
I notis it predicts worse wether for next yeare. 
Storms & Tempests will prevale with intense frosts 
probabel at times, but thare will be much changabel 
wether & meney meteors that will betoken war. 
Thare will be awful winds on Parts of the Earth. 
In the back are som Prophesies made by the Seventh 
Son, which I copy down. He says thare will be wars 
and rumours of wars & Turbulence & Teror will 
apear on evry hand & cloudds of darkest hue will 

[98] 



THE "WETHER BOOK" 

hang over the World in the East. Fires will abound 
& Tumults & Bloodshed & Plots & Uprores in som 
Nations. Subject Pepils will turn & bite the hoof 
that holds them down. A certain Luckless King 
may loose his hed & something may hapen to the 
Pope. Armed Men may march to & fro & meney will 
be smitten to the Dust. Blood will be shed in Ire- 
land. Tyrants will shake their Rods & the Torch 
of Discord will be hurled in Crimea. The Couch of 
Mortality will be spred & meney pepil will die dur- 
ing the yeare. Low Moans of the Oppressed will 
be heard in Italy. It is all bad noos in the almanack 
for next yeare. The 7th Son predicts that Flocks 
of Boobies will assale the TRUTHS OF PROPH- 
ESY. He predicts no troubels for eny whare around 
here. Your uncle Josiah is in out of the wet. 

Dec. 15th — Sam Green com & says his friend Was- 
son is sick & wants som medicin. I give him som 
of each kind but I ought to see the simptoms. Was- 
son does not kno what ales him but my medicin will 
probly fix him up. He probly has stummick com- 
plaint. Stedy freezing wether now. 

Dec. 16-17-18 — Evrything is froze tite & so is the 
pump. I ben out on trips & I think one ear is froze. 
I tended to a lot of bisness. I got supplys & same 
kind of almanack for next yeare that I ben having. 
I notis the predictions in it are not half so bad as 
the one that was fetched for the litle present by 
Conkrite. He probly wanted to scare me into 
the woods. I notis he keaps the same kind I do 
& he gave me the other. I stopped at his place 

[99] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

today & I saw Green & Wasson & J. Podnutt thare. 
"Wasson got well. Those were all good medicins I 
sent. Their noos is timber theves are at it again 
down the river. Wasson hunts down thare & he 
wants us all to form a possy and chase them out of 
the country but your uncle chases nuthing these days 
he does not want. I tell them the owners must be 
notified. I do not know what them old mud turkels 
talk about all the time up to Conkrite's. I got som 
candy for Jim Crow & I paid Conkrite for his pork 
at a low price & Jim is now mine again. Jim is good 
good company if you kno how to get along with a 
bear. I got a noo medicin. Instant Belief for In- 
ternal Disorders. Will try on sombody that corns 
to see how I am & to borro medicin. It looks like a 
good remedy. This has ben an active day. 

Dec. 20 — Think I got som cold on my trip Satur- 
dy. Am taking the noo remedy but do not yet kno 
what it will cure. I notis that 2 things that are on 
the wrapper I am troubeled with. Big snow storm 
now going on. 

Dec. 21-22-23-24 — Your uncle Josiah has felt prety 
poorly for these 4 days. Hav taken my medicins 
stedy. Think I am now beter. Must go to Baxter's 
tomorro. Wether clear & cold. 

Dec. 26th — I took diner up at Baxter's & it was a 
good diner. We had chickin fixings & cooked appels 
& a grate dele of other things & pie of all kinds. I 
took the chickins up. We talked & smoaked & in 
P.M. Ed got his fiddel out & playd hoppy tunes 
on it. A string was busted but he done well with 

[100] 



THE "WETHER BOOK" 

the rest. I got along fine with them 2 twins. Their 
parents hav a lot of plesure with them babys. I 
had them on my lap & it took me back to when I 
had 2 litle boys that did not kno beter than to like 
to be around with their pa. I wish I had them litle 
boys back now. They grew up & went away probly 
looking for beter friends. It is lonesom heare on 
the iland with them & their mother all gone; once 
in a while I find somthing around they playd with 
& things their mother had & them things are what 
I got left. I must hav the Baxters down heare next 
Chrismas if I am around. I will cetch them twins 
some young rabbitts when they get old enough & 
som young mudturkels & pollywoggs to play with 
like I used to do. Full moon at nite on my way 
back to the iland & them 2 litle boys was asleep 
when I left. 

Dec. 27-28-29-30—1 ben too sick to rite in my 
wether book. 

Dec. 31st — This was the last day of the yeare & 
whatever hapened is now all over. It is awful cold 
& still outside & once in a while I heare frost crack- 
ing in the woods. The yeare is now coming to its 
end in a few minits. It is prety late for me to be 
around but I am waiting for the old clock to strike 
12. Maybe next yeare at this time I will be asleep. 
It is awful lonesom heare tonite & I wish I had my 
folks around or if them 2 litle boys was only heare 
or sombody. Maybe tomorro sombcdy will com. I 
notis by the looking glass that the old man' hed is 
prety white. He has ben frosted som. He now 
goes into his blankett for the yeare ends as he rites. 

[101] 



V 
TIPTON POSEY'S STORE 



V 

TIPTON POSEY'S STORE 

THE unpretentious building stood just back 
from the road, near the end of "Bundy's 
Bridge." It was a lonely looking structure, 
for there were no near neighbors. Its sustenance 
was drawn from a thinly populated region, but its 
location made it easy of access from many miles 
around. 

The winding thoroughfare that led over the de- 
crepit bridge was an ancient Indian trail that, like 
the other cherished possessions of the red man, 
had been merged into the economies of his white 
brothers. 

The plashing waters of the river lulled the ear 
with gentle tumult. They sighed softly under the 
old bridge, rippled against the decayed abutments 
with a dirge-like rhythm, and spread out in little 
swirls and scrolls over the tapering sand bar below. 

During the hot summer forenoons barefooted 
boys in fragmentary costume appeared on the struc- 
ture from unknown sources. They rested long cane 
fish poles along the side rails, and watched for the 
corks to bob that floated on the lazy current. They 
soon disrobed and remained naked the rest of the 
day, making frequent trips into the river, where 

[105] 



THE VANISHING KIVER 

they wallowed along the muddy margin and 
splashed in the shallow water. 

The agile sun burned bodies, and the shouts of the 
noisy happy crew, gave a touch of vibrant life and 
human interest to the melancholy old bridge. 

When night came the scant raiment was gathered 
up and the slender strings of small bull-heads and 
sun-fish — a meager spoil if judged from a material 
standpoint — were carried proudly away on the dusty 
road. Emperors — and particularly one of them — 
might well envy their innocence and happiness as 
they faded away into the twilight. 

Lofty elms, big sycamores and bass-woods, inter- 
laced with wild grape vines, shaded the approach 
to the bridge, and fringed the gently sloping banks 
of the river. 

The store was a remnant of the past. When it 
was built, about sixty years ago, the location seemed 
to offer alluring prospects. While the expected 
town did not materialize in the vicinity of the bridge, 
the store had done a thriving business, before the 
railroads crossed the river country, and after the 
old trail was graded. Few of the frequent travelers 
along the road had failed to stop and contribute 
more or less to its prosperity. The trappers from 
up and down the river sold their pelts and obtained 
supplies there, some of which consisted of very raw 
edged liquor, that they often claimed ate holes in 
their stockings. Much of it had never enjoyed the 
society of a revenue stamp, but as stamps affected 

[106] 




Tipton Posey 



TIPTON POSEY'S STORE 

neither the flavor or the hitting quality of the goods, 
nobody ever inquired into these things. 

The merciless years changed the fortunes of the 
place, and it was now in an atmosphere of decay. 
It was a gray unpainted two story affair, with a 
wooden awning over a broad platform in front, 
along the outer edge of which hung a small squeaky 
sign: 



TIPTON POSEY 
GENERAL MERCHANDISE 



It was the general loafing place of the old musk- 
rat trappers and pot hunters — known as " river 
rats," — and old settlers, whose principal asset was 
spare time, but everybody for miles around came 
occasionally to "keep track o' what's goin' on," 
and to exchange the gossip of the river country. 

Posey, the jovial and philosophic proprietor, who 
lived upstairs, was a sympathetic member of the 
motley gatherings. He was utilized in countless 
ways. He acted as stakeholder and referee when 
bets were made on disputed matters of fact, deliv- 
ered verbal messages, and always had the latest 
news. He was a good natured, ruddy faced old fel- 
low, with an eccentric moustache that curled in at 
one corner of his mouth, and seemed to be trying 
to make its escape on the other side. He seldom 
wore a hat and his gray hair stood up like a flare 
over his high forehead. 

[107] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

The confused stock of goods included a little of 
everything that any reasonable human being would 
want to buy, and lots of things that nobody could 
ever have any sane use for. Those who were un- 
reasonable could always get what they wanted by 
waiting a week or two, for "Tip" declared that he 
would draw upon the resources of the civilized world 
through the mails, if necessary, to accommodate his 
customers. 

Posey was reliable in everything except regular 
attendance. He "opened store" spasmodically in 
the morning, and closed it "whenever they was 
nobody 'round" at night. "When his life-long friend, 
Bill Stiles, was unavailible as a substitute guardian 
he often locked up and left a notice on the door in- 
dicating when he would return. I once found one 
reading: "Gone off — back Monday." It was 
Wednesday and it had been there since Saturday. 
Various lead pencil comments had been inscribed on 
the misleading notice by facetious visitors, among 
them "Liar!" "What Monday?" "Sober up!" 
"Stranger called to buy a hundred dollars' worth 
of goods and found nobody home." "The sheriff 
has been here looking for you twice," and several 
other notations calculated to annoy the delinquent. 
Sometimes the notice would simply read "Gone off," 
which, in connection with the fact that the door was 
locked, was convincing to the most obtuse observer. 
Tip usually found a fringe of patient customers and 
assorted loiterers sitting along the edge of the plat- 

[108] 



TIPTON POSEY'S STORE 

form, discussing the burning questions of the day, 
when he returned. 

During the shooting seasons he spent much time 
on the marsh down the river. Orders were stuck 
under the door, and during his brief and uncertain 
visits to the store, he filled them and left the goods 
in a locked wooden box in the rear, to which a few 
favored customers had duplicate keys. 

While Tip's affairs were not conducted on strictly 
commercial principles, he had no competition, and 
eventually did all the business there was to be done. 
"I git all the money they got, an' nobody c'd do 
more'n that if they was here all the time," he re- 
marked, as he laid his gun and a bunch of bloody 
ducks on the platform and unlocked the door late 
one night, after several days' absence. "I got 'em 
all trained now an' they'd be spoiled if I took to 
bein' here reg'lar." 

There were two "spare rooms" over the store, 
that were reached by a stairway on the outside of 
the building. I usually occupied one of them when- 
ever I visited that part of the river. Bill Stiles slept 
in the other when he thought it was too dark for 
him to go home, or he was not in a condition to 
make the attempt. It was in use most of the time. 

Bill was the genus loci, and gave it a rich and 
mellow character, which it would have been difficult 
for Posey to sustain alone. He was a grizzled vet- 
eran of the marshes. For many years he had lived 
in a tumble-down shack on "Huckleberry Island." 
He trapped muskrats and mink over a wide area in 

[109] 



THE VANISHING EIVEB 

the winter, and shot ducks and geese for the market 
in the spring and fall. When the fur harvests be- 
gan to fail, and the game laws became oppressive, 
he concluded that he was getting too old to work, 
and was too much alone in the world. He moved 
up the river and built a new shack on ' ' Watermelon 
Bend," which was within easy walking distance 
from the store, where he could usually find plenty 
of congenial company when he wanted it. Here he 
had become a fixture. 

Out of the ample fund of his experience, flavored 
and garnished by the rich and inexhaustible fertility 
of an imagination, that at times was almost uncanny, 
had come tales of early life on the river and marshes 
that had enthralled the loiterers at the store. They 
shared the shade of the awning with him during the 
hot summer days, and surrounded the big bellied 
wood stove in the dingy interior during the winter 
days and evenings when "they was nothin' doin' " 
anywhere else in the region, and listened with rapt 
interest to his reminiscences. Any expression of 
incredulity met with crushing rebuke. "I didn't 
notice that you was there at the time, ,, he would 
remark with asperity. "If you wasn't, that'll be 
all from you." 

The muskrat colonies still left along the river, 
and out on the marshy areas, were often drawn 
upon by adventurous youngsters, solely for the pur- 
pose of "seein' Bill skin 'em." Clusters of the un- 
fortunates were brought by their tails and laid on 
the store platform. The old man would look the 

[110] 



TIPTON POSEY'S STOKE 

crowd over patronizingly, take his "ripper" from 
his pocket, and, with a few dexterous strokes, per- 
form feats of pelt surgery that made the tyros gasp 
with admiration. 

"I skun six hundred an' forty-eight rats once't, 
in five hours, that I'd caught on Muckshaw Lake the 
night before," was Bill's invariable remark after 
he had finished his grewsome performance. 

The adulation of these small audiences was the 
glow that illumined his declining days. 

When I first met the old man years ago, he was 
engaged in writing his autobiography, and at last 
accounts he was still at it. His shack and the little 
room over the store had gradually become literary 
temples. His complicated manuscripts and notes 
were kept in an old black satchel of once shiny oil 
cloth, that he called his "war bag." On its side was 
the roughly lettered inscription: "HISTOKIC 
CEONICELS— STILES." He carried it back and 
forth between his abodes with much solicitude. Dur- 
ing the many evenings I spent with him, he would 
frequently extract its contents and read aloud in 
the dim light of a kerosene lamp. He often paused 
and looked over the rims of his spectacles, with 
animation in his gray eyes, when he came to pas- 
sages that he deemed of special importance. The 
masses of foolscap contained records that were only 
intelligible to the writer. His grammar and spelling 
were hopelessly bad, his methods of compilation 
were baffling, and his penmanship was mystic, but 
his collection of facts and near-facts was prodigious. 

[Ill] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

He took long reflective rests between the periods of 
active composition. They were deathless chronicles 
in the sense that they seemed to be without end, and 
they appeared to become more and more deathless 
as he proceeded. 

The first two or three hundred pages were what 
Bill called a " Backfire Chapter." It began with 
the Creative Dawn, and was a general historical 
resume down to the time of his appearance on earth. 
It skipped lightly over the great events, that loom 
like mountain peaks in the world's history and tower 
away into the receding centuries. When he came to 
the Deluge he got lost among Noah's animals for 
awhile and floundered hopelessly for adjectives. It 
was impossible to enumerate and describe all of 
them, but he did the best he could. Through a maze 
of wars and falling empires, he got Columbus to 
America. The Republic was established, and civil- 
ization finally flowered with the birth of Bill Stiles, 
A.D., 1836. From the dawn of time to the rocking 
of Bill's cradle was a far cry, but his annals included 
what he considered the essential features of that 
dark period. 

In addition to a vast amount of matter of purely 
personal interest, the work was designed to ac- 
curately record the happenings in the river country 
during Bill's lifetime. 

Much of his material was collected at the store. 
The year that Bundy's Bridge was built, and the 
ferry ceased operations, was shrouded in historic 
gloom. Five times the year had been changed in 

[112] 



TIPTON POSEY'S STORE 

the chronicles, for five eminent authorities differed 
as to the date, and each of them had at one time or 
another succeeded in impressing Bill. He seemed 
confident of all his other facts. The other bridges 
had given him no trouble. 

There was no question in his mind as to when 
the Pottowattomies were relieved of their lands and 
forcibly removed from the country, or when the 
camp of horse thieves on Grape Island was broken 
up. 

There was a tale of another band of horse thieves, 
whose secret retreat was on an island in the middle 
of a big lake of soft muck several miles south of 
the river. 

The one route of access to it was a concealed 
sand-bar known only to the outlaws. The unsavory 
crew collected their plunder on the island, where 
the pilfered beasts were cared for, and their 
markings changed with various dyes. In due time 
they smuggled them away in the darkness to dis- 
tant markets. They once captured a too curious 
preacher, who was looking for his horse, and kept 
him in durance vile for several months. The ex- 
pounder of the gospels labored so faithfully in that 
seemingly hopeless vineyard that the blase bandits 
were finally ' ' purified by the word of the Lord, gave 
up their dark practices, made restitution, and ever 
after lived model lives." 

There was a record of a mighty flood that drowned 
out everything and everybody, ran over the top of 
the bridge and carried part of it away, and follow- 

[113] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

ing this were notations of approximate dates of 
sundry happenings — when the gang of counterfeit- 
ers that dwelt in Pinkamink Marsh were caught and 
"sent up" — the year that Bill killed a blue goose on 
"Boiler Slough" — when the tornado blew all of the 
water out of the river at "Ox Bow Bend" and left 
the channel bare for half an hour, and the year that 
"forty-six thousand rat skins was took off Shelby 
Marsh. ' ' 

A page was devoted to a reign of terror that 
lasted several weeks in 1877. For five nights an 
awful roar had come out of "Bull Snake Bayou." 
The mystery was never explained, but Bill thought 
that the noise had been produced by a "whiffma- 
tick" or a "hodad" that had come down with the 
spring flood, lost its way, and was shedding horns 
or scales in the vine-clad thickets. 

The births, weddings and deaths of all the old set- 
tlers were carefully recorded, and many of their ex- 
ploits detailed at length. There was an account of 
the capture of Hank Butts and his illicit still by the 
revenue officers, the failure of the jury to convict, 
owing to the reputations of the culprit's two sons 
as dead shots, and the story of Hank's death in a 
feather bed, with his boots on, when he went to visit 
a city relative and blew out the gas a few months 
later. 

Bill's experience with a "cattymount" was re- 
lated with much detail. He had encountered it in 
the woods when he was young, and had spent two 
days and nights in a tree, living on crackers, plug 

[114] 



TIPTON POSEY'S STORE 

tobacco, and a bottle of sage tea that he fortunately 
happened to have with him. The animal's foot had 
been shattered by Bill's only bullet and this pre- 
vented it from going into the foliage after him. 
The captive had chewed up over a pound of the 
plug and had carefully aimed the resulting juices 
at the baleful eye-balls that gleamed below him at 
night, hoping to blind his besieger. When the sup- 
ply of this ammunition was exhausted the animal's 
eyes were still bright, although Bill had scored 
many body hits and had decidedly changed the gen- 
eral color of his enemy. 

Hunger finally compelled the savage beast to beat 
a retreat and the situation was relieved. The "cat- 
tymount" had evidently increased in size with the 
succeeding years, for in the manuscript its esti- 
mated length had been twice corrected with a pen, 
the last figures being the highest. Bill added that 
he had killed this " fierce an' formidable animal" 
later, and that "its skin was taken east." 

Somewhere among the confused piles was the tale 
of the last voyage of the little stern-wheel steamer, 
"Morning Star" to the ferry, under command of 
"Cap'n Sink." She had come up from the Illinois 
river, and the falling waters had left her stranded 
for a week on a sand bar. Her doughty commander 
paced the deck and blistered it with profanity. He 
swore by nine gods that he never again would go 
above "Corkscrew Bend," that was so crooked that 
even the fish had sense enough to keep out of it. 
His vociferous impiety filtered intermittently 

[115] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

through the green foliage that overhung the river, 
and desecrated the shadow-flecked aisles of the for- 
est, until the Morning Star's sister boat, the "Dam- 
fino," came wheezing up stream. The unfortunate 
craft was pulled off the bar and navigation offi- 
cially ended. 

Reliable data was becoming scarce. Bill's recol- 
lections were getting hazy. The old settlers, whose 
memories could be relied upon, were dying off, and 
the mists were absorbing his ascertainable facts, 
but, while life lasts the chronicles will go on, for 
Bill's genius is not of the sort that admits defeat. 

There is much human history that might with 
profit be entombed in these humble archives, and 
its obscurity would be a blessing to those who made 
it. As the world grows older it finds less to respect 
in the dusty tomes that are filled with the story of 
human folly, selfishness and needless bloodshed. 

Bill and I were enjoying a quiet smoke on the 
store platform one July afternoon, and discussing 
his historical labors. 

"We'r livin' in ter'ble times, an* the things that's 
happenin' now mops ev'ry thing else off en the 
map," he declared, as he refilled his cob pipe. "I 
see things in my paper ev'ry week that oughta 
be noted down in my history, but I'm pretty near 
eighty, an' if I try to put 'em all in I'll never git 
through. There's too damn much goin' on. They'r 
ditchin' the river an' heil's to pay up above. They'r 
blastin' in the woods with dinnymite, an* some o* 
them oV codgers that lives in them shacks up above 

[116] 



TIPTON POSEY'S STORE 

English Lake '11 be blown to kingdom come if they 
don 't watch out an ' duck. They better wake up an ' 
come down stream. Say, d'ye see that damn cuss 
coram' over the bridge? That's Rat Hyatt, an' I'm 
goin' to jump 'im when 'e gits 'ere. He lost my dog 
I let 'im take. That feller's no good, an' 'e's 
ripenin' fer damnation." 

"Muskrat Hyatt" was a tall, raw-boned, keen- 
eyed ne'er-do-well sort of a fellow, who had hunted 
and trapped on the river for many years. He lived 
in an old house boat that had floated down stream 
during high water one spring, and got wedged in 
among some big trees in the woods, about half a 
mile above the bridge. He moved into it when the 
waters subsided and found it an agreeable abode. 

"I hope the owner never shows up," remarked 
Rat, after I knew him. ' ' I don 't think I 'd like him. 
If the water ever gits that high ag'in an' floats me 
off, I'm willin' to go most anywheres in the old ark 
so long's she don't take a notion to go down an' 
roost on the bridge with me." 

He greeted us with rather an embarrassed air, 
as he came up, and the old man spent considerable 
time in attempting to extract some definite infor- 
mation about "Spot." Rat was evasive and unsat- 
isfactory. 

"They ain't no more patheticker sight than to 
see some feller that sets an' flaps 'is ears, an' can't 
answer nothin' that's asked 'im without tryin' to 
chin about sump'n else all the time," declared Bill. 

[117] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

"I don't care nothin' about its bein' hot. I want 
to know where in hell my dog is" 

' ' That dog o ' your 'n 's all right, "said Hyatt. ' ' I 
reckon 'e's off some'rs chas'n rabbits, an' you 
needn't do no worryin'. If anybody's stole 'im you 
bet I'll git 'im an' the scalp o' the feller with 'im. 
If 'e aint 'ere tomorrer I'll take a look around. A 
dog like that can't be kep' hid long, an' somebody '11 
'ave seen 'im. He ain't no fool, an' if Vs shut up 
anywheres, you bet 'e'll come back w'en 'e gits 
out." 

"Well, you see that 'e gits out," replied the old 
man with asperity. "I'm done havin' heart disease 
ev'ry time I don't see that dog w'en I go by your 
place, an' I want 'im back where 'e b 'longs. I 
didn't give 'im to you, an' if you don't know where 
'e is you aint fit to have charge o' no animal. This 
aint no small talk that I'm doin'. Its the summm* 
up o' the court." 

Spot was a well trained bird dog. Hyatt had bor- 
rowed him from the old man about two years before, 
and, as his facilities for taking care of him were 
much better than Bill was able to provide, the ani- 
mal was allowed to remain at Hyatt's house boat 
on indefinite leave. He slept under the rude bed 
and seemed much happier there than at home. 

Hyatt was now in rather a delicate position. The 
dog had not been seen in the neighborhood for over 
a week. An old trapper had come down the river 
in a canoe and stopped for an hour or so at the 
house boat. He announced his intention of leaving 

[118] 



TIPTON POSEY'S STORE 

the country forever, and was on his way to the Il- 
linois where he hoped to find enough muskrats to 
occupy his remaining days. He wanted a good quail 
dog, and, after much jockeying, had acquired Spot 
in exchange for a repeating rifle and a box of car- 
tridges. The dog was tied in the front end of the 
canoe and departed with his new owner. Hyatt had 
an abiding faith that Spot would return in a few 
days, and that the stranger would be too far away 
down stream to want to buffet the strong current to 
get him back. 

The dog's homing instinct had proved reliable 
heretofore, as he had been sold several times under 
similar conditions, and was now regarded as a pos- 
sible source of steady income by his thrifty guard- 
ian. 

Hyatt was careful not to sell the animal to any- 
body who was liable to be in that part of the coun- 
try again. Spot had once gone as far as the Mis- 
sissippi river with a confiding purchaser, and was 
away only a little over two weeks. He was now ex- 
pected back at any time, in fact he was under the 
bed when Hyatt arrived home after the disagreeable 
reproaches of Bill Stiles, and the next day the in- 
cident was considered closed by both parties. 

The only pet that Bill had cared anything for in 
recent years, besides his dog, was a one legged duck 
that he called "Esther." The missing support had 
been acquired by a snapping turtle in the river, and 
Bill's sympathies and affections had been aroused. 
During her owner's absence from his shack, Esther 

[1193 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

and her brown brood were confined in the hollow 
base of a big tree, protected from the weasels and 
skunks by a wire screen over the opening. 

By Saturday night Hyatt and Stiles had become 
quite chummy again. It was very hot and we sat 
in front of the store with our coats off. Bill was 
discoursing sapiently on topics of international im^ 
port, when we saw somebody down the road. 

''That ol' mudturkle comin' yonder with that 
pipe stuck in all them whiskers, is Bill Wirrick," 
he announced after further observation. "We call 
'im 'Puckerbrush Bill,' on account of 'is bein' up 
in Puckerbrush Bayou one night in 'is push boat, 
an' tryin' to make a short cut to git back to the 
river. He got 'is whiskers tangled in the pucker- 
brush an' had to cut away a lot of 'em with 'is 
knife to git out. He's between some pretty big 
bunches of 'em now, but they aint nothin' to what 
they was. He had pretty near half a bushel an' 'e 
used to carry 'is money in 'em. I s'pose 'e'll begin 
tellin' about all 'is troubles w'en 'e gits 'ere. That's 
what's the matter with this place, an' it makes me 
tired to hear all these fellers tellin' their troubles 
w'en they oughta be listenin' to mine. My troubles 
has got some importance, but theirs don't interest 
nobody. 

"Hello, Puck," greeted the old man, as "Wirrick 
came up, "how's things down to the slough?" 

"Pretty slow; got'ny tobacco?" 

"Listen at 'im!" whispered Bill. 

He was duly supplied, and took one of the hickory 
[120] 




"PUCKERBRUSH Bill" 



TIPTON POSEY'S STORE 

chairs under the awning. Notwithstanding their 
reported depletion, his whiskers were still impres- 
sive, and the warm evening breeze played softly and 
fondly among the ample remnants. His mouth was 
concealed somewhere in the maze. His pointed nose 
and watchful furtive eyes gave his face a peculiar 
foxy expression. 

"Its a good thing you didn't strike a prairie fire 
with them whiskers, instid of a mess o' pucker- 
brush," remarked Bill, after a period of silence. 

"I'm goin' to mow 'em in a few days to cool off, 
an' then raise a new crop fer next winter. They's 
lots more whar them come from," replied Wirrick. 
"I'll git some whiskers that'll make you fellers set 
up an' take notice 'fore the snow flies." 

The mention of fire in connection with his whis- 
kers must have suggested something to Wirrick, 
for, when he appeared without them the following 
week, he said that he hated a razor, couldn't find 
any shears, and had "frizzled 'em off with a can- 
dle." 

Bill was shocked at his appearance. 

"You look like you was half naked. I see now 
w'y you been keepin' that ol' mug o' your'n cov- 
ered up. You've got a bum face. You git busy an' 
git all the whiskers you can right away!" 

The next arrival was Swan Peterson, an aged 
Swede, who lived in a dilapidated shack, festooned 
on the inside with rusty muskrat traps, near the 
mouth of "Crooked Creek." His liver had re- 
belled against many years of unfair treatment, and 

[121] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

his visage was of a greenish yellow. A prodigious 
white moustache, that suggested a chrysanthemum 
in full bloom, accentuated the evidence of his ail- 
ment. He was considerably over six feet tall. The 
years of hardship and isolation had bent his mighty 
shoulders and saddened his gray eyes. Peterson was 
cast in a heroic mould. His ancestors were the sea 
wolves who roved over perilous and unknown wa- 
ters, and met violent deaths, in years when the 
Norse legends were in the making, but their wild 
forays and stormy lives meant nothing to him. He 
had no interest in the past or traditions to uphold. 
All he now wanted in the world was plenty of 
patent medicine and whiskey to mix with it, and in 
a pinch, he could get along without the medicine. 

The jaundiced Viking came slowly up on to the 
platform, looked us over languidly, and commented 
on the general cussedness of the weather and life's 
monotonies. 

"I ban har fifty years, an' I seen the same damn 
thing ev'ry year all over again. It ban cold in win- 
ter an' hot in summer. I eat an' sleep, an' eat an' 
sleep some more, an' work hard all day, an' then eat 
an' sleep — ev'ry day the same damn thing. I ban 
takin' medicine now five years, an' I can't git none 
that's got any kick. Mebbe I got some o' them 
things that Rass Wattles says Wahoo Bitters '11 
cure, but mebbe I got something else that they 
didn't know about when they mixed that stuff. I 
find mixin' half Wahoo an' half whiskey ban some 
help, but I'm goin' to try some other bitters an' 

[122] 




Swan Peterson 



TIPTON POSEY'S STORE 

mix in more whiskey. That whiskey ban a good 
thing, an' when I get a good thing I put a sinker 
on it." 

Old "Doc" Dust drove up in a squeaky buggy 
with an ancient top. His lazy gray mare seemed 
glad to get her feet into the hollowed ground in 
front of the hitching rail. 

Certain types in the medical profession are never 
called anything but "Doc," except when more pro- 
fane appellations are required. Dust was a befit- 
ting name for the old man, for he appeared to be 
much dried up. His parchment like skin was drawn 
tightly over his protruding cheek bones, and his 
emaciated figure seemed almost ready to blow away. 
A frayed Prince Albert coat was secured with one 
button at the waist, and a rusty plug hat was 
jammed down on the back of his head. These things 
were evidently intended to impart a professional 
air, but they completed a sad satire. The Doc 
looked like hypocritical old scamp. 

Much human character, or the lack of it, may be 
indicated by a hat, and the manner of wearing it, 
particularly if it is a "plug." Worn in the ordi- 
nary conventional way, a "correct" plug is sup- 
posed to provide a roof for a certain kind of dig- 
nity, but usually it indicates nothing beyond a mere 
lack of artistic sensibility. Tipped forward, it sug- 
gests sulkiness, obstinacy, and self-complacency — 
a sort of sporty rowdyism, when worn on one side 
— and disregard of the rights and opinions of others, 
when it is tilted back of the ears. 

[123] 



THE VANISHING- RIVER 

Of course the condition and the year of coinage 
of the plug enter into the equation and complicate 
it, but even a very shabby plug is an entertaining 
story teller. To a careful and discriminating stu- 
dent of human folly, it is replete with subtleties. 

A Fiji Island cannibal, whose only wearing ap- 
parel was a plug hat, was once made chief of his 
tribe on account of it. It was probably as becom- 
ing to him as it had been to the spiritual adviser 
he had eaten. Such dignity and distinction as it 
was capable of imparting was his. He had attained 
what is possibly the apotheosis of barbaric head 
dress of our age. 

Doc carried two medicine cases under his buggy 
seat on his professional rounds. One of them was 
stocked with a dozen large bottles with Latin labels, 
and the other with small phials containing white 
pills the size of number six shot. If his patient 
preferred ' ' Alopathy, "he or she got it with a ven- 
geance. If "Homepathy" was wanted, the smaller 
receptacle was drawn upon. The "leaders" in the 
" Alopathy" box were castor oil — calomel, and 
quinine. Aconite and Belladona — 100, and Mag- 
nesium Phos-10 occupied the places of honor in the 
other. 

Dust had weathered several matrimonial storms, 
and his last wife was now under the wild flowers 
in the country cemetery, where the epitaph on the 
unpretentious stone — erected by her own relatives 
— was more congratulatory than sorrowful. 

"Doc" Hopkins, or "Hoppy Doc" as he was ir- 
[124] 



TIPTON POSEY'S STORE 

reverently dubbed along the river, was Dust's only- 
rival. The competition was bitter, and many un- 
timely ends were ascribed by each of them to the 
other's criminal ignorance. Hoppy Doc often told, 
with great relish, a story of Cornelia Kibbins, Dust's 
first wife, alleging that after a year of tempestuous 
married life, she had fled to her father's home late 
one winter night for refuge. Her irate parent re- 
fused her an asylum. He had felt greatly outraged 
when the wedding took place and never wanted to 
see his daughter again. In answer to the plaintive 
midnight cry at his door, he leaned out of a second 
story window and delivered a torrent of invective. 
As he closed the window he shouted, ''Dust thou 
art, and unto Dust shalt thou return!" 

The suppliant disappeared, and evidently the 
worm turned, for Dust was a physical wreck for a 
month afterwards. Old man Kibbins subsequently 
declared that while his daughter "was a damn fool, 
she had fight 'n blood in 'er, an' the Doc 'ad better 
look out fer squalls." 

Dust was guyed good-naturedly by the occupants 
of the platform, as he went into the store to get 
some fine cut. 

"What's that you've got out there between them 
buggy thills, Doc?" queried Hyatt. 

Bill winked at me and asked him if he had driven 
by his garden lately — a delicate reference to the 
cemetery, intended to be sarcastic. 

Another stove pipe hat was brought by "Pop" 
Wilkins, an octogenarian. He also wore it jammed 

[1251 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

well down behind his ears. The old man climbed 
painfully np the steps with his hickory cane, and 
dropped into a chair that Hyatt brought out of the 
store for him. He placed the ancient tile under it, 
mopped his bald head with a large red bandanna, 
and looked wistfully beyond the river. 

Pop had been afflicted with intermittent ague for 
several years. He was once a preacher and a tem- 
perance advocate. He was placed on the super- 
anuated list by the Methodist conference, and had 
finally been expunged as a backslider. He fell from 
grace and yielded to the lure of strong waters. 
Once, after he had over indulged for several weeks, 
he went and sat in sad reflection on the bank of the 
gloomy river at night. Out of its depths came 
strange six footed beasts and multicolored crawling 
things that terrified Pop and drove remorse into his 
soul. Since that eventful night he had been more 
moderate, but he was still in danger, and it was a 
question as to whether old age, ague, or J. Barley- 
corn would get him first. 

My friend "Kun'l" Peets, who was a compara- 
tively recent importation into the river country, 
came over the bridge with a basket on his arm con- 
taining a couple of setter pups that he wanted Posey 
to see, with a view of possibly having them applied 
on his account at the store. He was an ex-con- 
federate from Tennessee, and seemed sadly out of 
harmony with his surroundings. The pups were 
liberated on the platform and subjected to much 
poking about and criticism by the experts. The 

[126] 



TIPTON POSEY'S STOKE 

Colonel considered them ' i fine specimens of a noble 
strain," but Wirrick thought "they looked like they 
had some wolf blood in 'em." Posey agreed to ac- 
cept the little animals in lieu of eight dollars owed 
by the Colonel, with the understanding that they f 
were to be kept for him until they were a month 
older. Everybody understood his kindly considera- 
tion for the old man, and knew that he had no 
earthly use for the pups. 

The assemblage in front of the store became more 
varied and interesting with the arrival of other 
visitors. The chairs were exhausted and the plat- 
form edge was entirely occupied. Bill Stiles had 
just commenced the narration of a horse trade story, 
when an old man appeared in the twilight on the 
bridge. He wore a long gray overcoat, although the 
evening was very warm. The story stopped and 
interest was centered on the slowly approaching 
figure. 

I asked Posey who he was. He bent his head to- 
ward me confidentially, and, in something between 

a low whistle and a whisper, replied : ' ' S-s-s-s-t 

'the Serpent's Hiss'!!!" 

We were in prohibition territory, and the old 
" bootlegger" was bringing twelve flat pint bottles 
in twelve inside pockets of the gray overcoat to 
break the drought at Posey's store. 

He was an unbonded warehouse, and the reason 
for the mysterious gathering on that particular eve- 
ning was now apparent. 

He came slowly up the steps, and seemed embar- 

[127] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

rassed to find a stranger present. I was introduced 
and vouched for by my friend Posey, and he seemed 
much relieved. 

Conversation had been rather dull during the last 
half hour, but now it had a merry note. The jaun- 
diced Viking brightened up and wondered how many 
bird's nests had been constructed with the whiskers 
that Wirrick had left up in the bayou. Time worn 
jokes were laughed at more than usual. Some new 
insurance that Posey had acquired was regarded as 
indicating a big fire as soon as business got dull, 
and Doc Dust was told that he ought to keep the 
small bag of oats under his buggy seat away from 
the medicine cases or he would lose his horse. 

''Well, time is flitt'n," remarked the "Serpent's 
Hiss," as he rose and departed for the barn lot 
behind the store. 

One by one, like turtles slipping off a log into 
a stream, those who sat along the edge of the plat- 
form dropped silently to the ground and followed 
him, and most of the occupants of the chairs joined 
the procession. Like the oriflamme of Henry of 
Navarre, the gray overcoat led them on through the 
dusk. 

The retreat to the rear was in deference to Posey's 
scruples. He preferred that the store itself should 
be kept free from illegitimate traffic. 

The odor of substantial sin, and a faint sugges- 
tion of a dragon's breath was in the atmosphere 
when the crowd returned. Deliverance had come. 

[128] 



TIPTON POSEY'S STORE 

Aridity was succeeded by bountiful moisture, that 
like gentle rain, had fallen upon thirsty flowers. 

The Colonel seemed in some way to be dissatis- 
fied with his visit to the barn, and was at odds with 
the owner of the gray overcoat when the expedition 
returned. He had parted with a silver coin under 
protest. 

"Inate cou'tesy, suh, compelled me to pa 'take of 
you 'ah abundance, suh," he declared. "It was not 
that I wanted you 'ah infe'nal mixcha, you mink 
eyed old grave robbah," he declared, as he left 
with his puppies. 

The old bootlegger's name was Richard Shakes, 
but the obvious natural perversion to "Dick 
Snakes" was too tempting to be resisted by the 
river humorists. He was also frequently alluded to 
as ' ' Tiger Cat, ' ' a term that seemed much more ap- 
propriate to the liquids he dispensed than to him, 
for, outside of his questionable occupation,* the old 
man was entirely inoffensive and harmless. He was 
another member of the old time trapping fraternity, 
and lived alone in a log house on the creek about 
two miles away. 

He had a large collection of Indian relics, that he 
had spent many years in accumulating, and he took 
great delight in showing them to anybody who came 
to see him. The arrow and spear heads were 
methodically arranged in long rows on thin smooth 
boards, and held in place by the heads of tacks that 
overlapped their edges. The boards were nailed to 

[129] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

the walls of faced logs all over the interior of the 
cabin. 

Nearly everybody in the surrounding country had 
contributed to the collection at one time or another, 
and it was being added to constantly. 

There were many fine specimens of tomahawk 
heads, stone axes, and other implements, that had 
been fashioned with admirable skill. The old man 
guarded his hoarded treasures with a miser's solici- 
tude, for they were the solace of his lonely life. He 
had refused large offers for the collection as a 
whole, and never could be induced to part with sin- 
gle specimens, except under pressure of immediate 
necessity. 

There are few mental comforts comparable with 
those of absorbing hobbies. They temper the raw 
winds and asperities of existence to a wonderful de- 
gree, and offer a welcome balm of heart interest to 
lives weary of continued conflict for mythical goals. 
We may smile at them in others, but we realize their 
deep significence when they are our own. 

Poor old Shakes was but another example of one 
made happy by a harmless fad, the joys of which 
might well be coveted by those whose millions have 
brought only fear and sorrow. After it is all over 
the pursuit of one phantom has been as gratifying 
as the quest of another, for they both end in dark- 
ness. 

After sitting around for awhile, and listening to 
the enlivened conversation, and the gossip of the 
neighborhood, that now circulated freely, the old 

[130] 




&*$ -J|; 



. 




Dick Shakes 



TIPTON POSEY'S STORE 

man bought a package of tobacco in the store, for 
which he said he had "been stung ten cents," and 
left us, with the overcoat, from which the cargo had 
been discharged, hung lightly over his arm. 

The assemblage gradually dispersed. "Wirrick, 
Hyatt, and the jaundiced Viking went down to the 
river bank and departed in their ' ' push boats. " Doc 
Dust invited Pop Wilkins to ride with him, and they 
betook themselves into the shadows. Tipton Posey 
relighted his pipe and Bill Stiles resumed the story 
of the horse trade. 



[131] 



VI 

MUSKRAT HYATT'S REDEMPTION 



VI 

MUSKEAT HYATT'S KEDEMPTION 

EXCEPT from a picturesque standpoint, 
"Rat" Hyatt was not an ornament to the 
river country. Its meager and widely scat- 
tered social life, and its average of morality, were 
more or less affected by his shortcomings. In many 
communities he would be considered an undesirable 
citizen. He was looked upon as a good natured 
"bad egg," and as one industrious in the ways of 
sin by his associates at Tipton Posey's store, but 
the habitues of that time honored loafing place al- 
ways welcomed him, for he possessed a reminiscent 
talent and a peculiar kind of dry wit and repartee 
that helped to enliven the sleepy days. 

In this world much sin is forgiven an entertain- 
ing personality. 

There was always a feeling of incompleteness on 
the store platform when Eat was absent, that no- 
body ever admitted, but when he arrived and took 
his accustomed seat on the green wheel barrow, that 
was part of the merchandise that Posey kept out- 
side in the day time, the depressing vacancy existed 
no longer. 

Bill Stiles 's temperamental discharges of ornate 

[135] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

philosophy, and his comments on life's ironies and 
human folly, required a target, and this was com- 
monly the role assigned to Rat Hyatt. 

"I'm always the goat," remarked Rat one hot 
afternoon, as we sat in the shade of the wooden 
awning. "W'y don't you pick on somebody that 
likes to listen? I've been kidded by experts, an' this 
long talk o' your'n seems kind o' mixed up. The 
trouble with you an' a lot o' the other ol' mud birds 
'round 'ere, is you open yer mouth an' go 'way an' 
leave it, an' fergit you started it." 

"Now look 'ere, Rat," replied Bill, "you aint got 
no call to talk back to me. Wen I'm talkin' to you, 
I aint arguin'. I'm tellin' you how 'tis. I knowed 
you w'en you wasn't knee high to a duck, an' you 
aint got brains enough to have the headache with. 

1 ' That feller that you sold my dog to the last time 
was 'ere yisterd'y askin' 'bout you, an' if Spot 'ad 
ever come back. He'd been up to your place, an' 
its a good thing fer you that you an' Spot was off 
some'rs in the woods. He told me what 'e traded 
you fer the animal, an' I want you to bring them 
things to me, fer it was my dog you got 'em with. ' ' 

As Spot was asleep under the wheelbarrow, Bill's 
equity in the repeating rifle and cartridges, that 
Hyatt had received in exchange for him, seemed 
rather hazy. The reason for Spot's prolonged ab- 
sence some months before was now apparent to Bill, 
and, although the intelligent animal had returned 
home, as expected, after being traded off, the old 
man's nurtured wrath was waiting for Rat when 

[136] 





"Muskrat" Hyatt 



MUSKEAT HYATT'S EEDEMPTION 

lie arrived that afternoon. Hyatt seemed in nowise 
abashed at the revelation of Bill's knowledge of his 
shady transaction with the trapper. 

"If I hadn't a knowed the dog 'ud come home, I 
wouldn't a let 'im go. It showed how much I trusted 
'im w'en I let 'im go off with a stranger like that. 
If that feller thought 'e c'd keep a fine dog like that 
away from them that loved 'im, 'e oughta suffer fer 
'is foolishness, an' leave sump'n in the country to 
be remembered by. Of course if sump'n 'ad a hap- 
pened to Spot, an ' 'e hadn 't a come back, I'da given 
you the rifle, but I knowed that dog was all right. 
You c'n have 'im back any time you want 'im, if 
he'll stay with you, but you hadn't oughta jump 
on me as long as 'e aint lost, an' 'e's in first class 
health." 

"Its the funny ideas that some fellers 'ave about 
other people's propity that keeps the states' prisons 
filled up," remarked Bill. "It aint the lyin' an* 
stealin' that gits 'em thar, its gitt'n caught. If they 
don't git caught its jest called business shrewdness. 
You bilked that feller out o' that gun an' you'r de- 
privin' me of it w'en you used my dog to git it 
with. You'r a fine man to trust anythin' with, you 
are. If I had any place to keep Spot I wouldn 't let 
you have 'im a minute. I c'n fill my shanty with 
stuff by tradin' 'im off, an' then wait'n fer 'im to 
come home, jest as well as you can, an' it 'ud be all 
right fer me to do it, but you aint got no such right, 
'specially if yer goin' to swindle people." 

After Bill's assurance that he had told the de- 

[137] 



THE VANISHING EIVEE 

hided trapper nothing of Spot's return, and that he 
had gone off up the river, the conversation drifted 
into channels that were less irritating. 

The old man 's mind became calm and he ascended 
the narrow stairway on the outside of the building, 
to his room over the store, for a nap. 

"That ol' feller oughta to have a phonygraph 
with 'is voice in it so he c'd spin it an' listen to 
'imself speil," remarked Eat after Bill had left. 
"I used to often watch 'im when 'e was set'n quiet 
out 'ere by the hour, with that dinkey hat pulled 
down in front an' lookin' wise, an' wonder what 
big thoughts was ferment 'n up in that old moss 
covered dome o' his, but I found out after a while 
that 'e wasn't thinkin' about nuth'n at all." 

Eat wended his way down to the bank under the 
bridge, where he had left his push boat, followed 
by the faithful Spot, and poled his way up stream. 
When he reached the vicinity of the stranded house 
boat, where he had lived for several years, he recon- 
noitered it cautiously. No malign presence was de- 
tected. He looked over his bee hives that were scat- 
tered about among the trees, and provided two or 
three week's food supplies for his chickens, and 
some young coons and weasles, that he was raising 
for their fur in some wire cages under the house. 
He then packed a few necessaries into his boat, and 
secured the door of the house with a padlock. 

He was not quite satisfied that the trapper, who 
was looking for Spot, had left the country, and he 
did not intend to take any chances. The dog was 

[138] 



MUSKRAT HYATT'S REDEMPTION 

ordered to lie down in the bow of the canoe, where 
he was carefully covered. The intelligent animal 
complied cheerfully with all of the arrangements. 

Rat then proceeded down the river for several 
miles to the big marsh, where he did the most of his 
trapping during the late fall, winter, and spring. 

He had two motives for his trip, besides the idea 
of avoiding a possible visit of the trapper to the 
house boat. One was to see if the muskrat popu- 
lation on the marsh had increased properly during 
the summer, and the other was to visit Malindy Tay- 
lor, whom he deeply loved, and by whom he was 
scorned as a suitor. 

Malindy was a peppery widow of about forty, who 
lived with her aged mother in a small house beyond 
the marsh. She was the owner of a wild duck farm, 
and conducted it with such success that Rat looked 
forward to spending his declining days in peace and 
comfort if he could persuade Malindy to take him 
into life partnership. 

Many hundreds of mallards and teal nested 
among the boggy places in the marsh during the 
summer. The eggs were gathered, put into incu- 
bators, and under complaisant hens on the farm. 
The ducklings were reared in wired enclosures 
that prevented them from joining their kind 
in the skies when the fall migrations began. During 
the game season, when they were properly matured, 
they were skilfully strangled and shipped away as 
wild birds at game prices. 

Rat had always willingly hunted nests and gath- 

[139] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

ered eggs for his beloved. He did odd jobs about 
the farm and participated in everything but the 
harvest. Like Jacob of old, toiling for the hand of 
Rachael, Rat's industry, although intermittent, was 
sustained by alluring hope. 

Outside of her earthly possessions, it must be ad- 
mitted that Malindy had few charms. One of her 
eyes was slightly on the bias, and at times it had 
a baleful gleam. Two of her front teeth protruded 
in a particularly unpleasant way, as though she ex- 
pected to bite at something alive. She had an an- 
gular disposition, and her temper was not conducive 
to the even flow of life's little amenities. To use a 
Scotch expression, she was "unco perniekity." She 
was intolerant of human frailty in others, especially 
of the kinds that entered so largely into Rat Hyatt's 
make-up, but divinities sometimes appear in strange 
forms. To Rat's love blinded eyes she was the one 
lone flower that grew in the dreary desert of life's 
monotonies. 

There is something about everybody that appeals 
to somebody, and this is why there is nobody who 
cannot find somebody willing to marry them. 

Perhaps the streak of primitive cussedness in 
Malindy appealed to compatible instincts in Rat's 
heart, but be that as it may, he was a faithful and 
much abused worshiper. 

When he reached the farther end of the great 
marsh, he threaded his way through familiar open- 
ings among the tall masses of rushes and wild rice, 
landed on the soggy shore, and pulled his canoe up 

[140] 



MUSKRAT HYATT'S REDEMPTION 

among the underbrush. He and Spot then took the 
winding path that led through the woods to the duck 
farm, about a quarter of a mile away. 

He intended to stay at the farm, in seclusion, for 
a week or two, do some work that he had long prom- 
ised, and then put out his traps on the marsh. He 
kept about a hundred of them in Malindy's barn, 
when they were not in use. 

About half way down the marsh a long tongue of 
wooded land extended out into the oozy slough. It 
was known as " Swallow Tail Point." This was 
Tipton Posey's favorite haunt during the shooting 
season. Thousands of wild ducks and geese passed 
over it on their way up or down the river, and in 
circling about over the marsh, which was a bounti- 
ful feeding ground. Bill Wirrick spent much time 
on the point with Posey. They had a little shack 
back among the low trees, sheltered so that it could 
not be seen from the sky, and hidden from the wa- 
ter by the tall brush. 

These two worthies had solved at least one of 
life 's problems in this secluded retreat, for they did 
not have to adjust themselves to the convenience of 
anybody else. 

In the early morning, just before daylight, when 
the ducks began to move over the marsh, and in the 
evening twilight, when the incoming flocks were set- 
tling for the night, little puffs of smoke, and faint 
reports, issued from the end of the point, and dark 
objects fell out of the sky. They were diligently re- 
trieved by Posey's brown water spaniel. 

[141] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

Occasionally wild geese would sweep low over the 
point, scatter and rise excitedly, as the puffs of 
smoke took toll from the honking ranks. 

In addition to a big bunch of wooden decoys that 
floated in an open space near the edge of the point, 
the wary birds were lured by mechanical quacks 
and honks from small patented devices, operated by 
their concealed enemies. 

Notwithstanding their civilized garb, and highly 
developed weapons, Tip and Bill were barbarians. 
Their instincts were lower than those of the car- 
nivora of the jungle, for they killed not for food, 
or even for profit, but for the joy of the killing. 
They did not bother about the wounded birds that 
curved away and fluttered into the matted grasses 
and rushes, to suffer in silence, or be eaten by the 
big snapping turtles that had no ideas of sport. 
They exulted over piles of beautiful feathered crea- 
tures, motionless and splashed with blood, many of 
which were afterwards thrown away. 

Tip had devoted many of his idle hours to the in- 
vention of a new goose call. The range of the ordi- 
nary devices seemed to him too restricted. His the- 
ory was that if the volume of sound could be in- 
creased so as to fill a radius of four or five miles, 
the distant V shaped flocks could be lured to within 
gun shot of the point. 

After long meditation, and consultation with Bill 
Wirrick, they began putting the plan into execution. 

They procured a pair of blacksmith's bellows 
from a distant country town, and some big instru- 

[142] 



MUSKRAT HYATT'S REDEMPTION 

ments that had once belonged to the local brass 
band. These things, in addition to some rubber gar- 
den hose, and a lot of other miscellaneous material, 
were carefully covered in a wagon and secretly con- 
veyed to the point. 

Weeks were spent in the construction of the ap- 
paratus. The brass instruments were arranged in 
the interior of a huge megaphone. Rubber balls 
bobbed about intermittently within the capacious 
horns when the air was pumped through them. The 
requisite volume of sound was attained, but some- 
how the turbulent honks of the wild geese were not 
satisfactorily imitated, although repeated adjust- 
ment and alteration gave much hope of success. 

The experiments were conducted cautiously dur- 
ing the summer, when there was nobody on the 
marsh, and no mention of the contrivance was made 
around the store, for a cruel gauntlet of jibes and 
merciless humor awaited the nonsuccess of the en- 
terprise, if the wiseacres of the platform ever 
learned of it. 

Rat Hyatt, although much interested in all that 
pertained to the marsh, and its surroundings, had 
never suspected what was going on on the point. 
He never had occasion to land there, and, by com- 
mon consent, its possession by Posey and Wirrick 
for shooting purposes was respected by the few 
hunters who frequented the vicinity. 

Malindy Taylor had sometimes heard some ter- 
rible noises from the direction of the point, but she 
was too far away to be much disturbed. Both Posey 

[143] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

and Wirrick had often referred to Malindy as "an 
old fuss-bug," although she was much younger than 
either of them, and they probably would not have 
cared if they had scared her out of the country, but 
she had little curiosity about things that did not 
affect her duck farm. 

She and her mother had concluded that the un- 
canny sounds were produced by donkeys in the 
woods, and doubtless this was also the opinion of 
most of those who afterwards learned all of the 
facts. 

When Rat emerged from his retirement at the 
duck farm, he spent two or three days puttering 
about through the water openings, setting his traps. 

The furred inhabitants of the slough had builded 
their picturesque little domes of stringy roots, 
rushes, and dead grass, and plastered them together 
with lumps of mud in the quiet places, away from 
the river currents that crept in sinuous and broken 
channels through the broad wastes of sodden laby- 
rinths. 

Hyatt was an intelligent trapper, and was care- 
ful not to depopulate his grounds. He frequently 
moved the traps, so as not to exhaust the animals 
in a particular locality. The little competition he 
had on the marsh must have been discouraging to 
his rivals, for he always had more traps at the end 
of the season than at its beginning, and the traps 
set by others never seemed to be very productive, 
except to Hyatt. By degrees each new comer was 
eliminated. 

[144] 



MUSKRAT HYATT'S REDEMPTION 

Rat had finished a hard day's work. He sat on 
some dry grass in the bottom of his canoe, lighted 
a redolent old pipe, and decided to indulge in a good 
smoke and a long rest before starting up the river. 

Twilight had come. The vast expanse of over- 
grown water was silent, except for the low lullabies 
of the marsh birds among the thick grasses and bul- 
rushes. He sat for a long time and watched the 
smoke curl up into the still air. The moon came 
over the distant rim of the forest that bordered the 
great marsh, and one by one, the stars began to 
tremble in the crystal sky, but it was not with the 
eye of the poet that Rat regarded these things. The 
moonlighted river would be easy to navigate on the 
trip home. 

Suddenly a flash of greenish light shot into the 
heavens in the north west, and in a few minutes 
the entire horizon in every direction flamed and 
shimmered with long gleaming streamers of rose 
and green beams that touched fluttering segments 
of a corona of orange glow at the zenith. 

Rat had often seen the Aurora Borealis; he was 
familiar with sheet lightning, and the electrical 
discharges of the thunder storms, but this awful 
light was something new. 

It was a magnetic storm, one of those rare phe- 
nomena, that the average person sees but once in a 
life time, and never forgets, paused by the sudden 
incandescence of heavily charged solar dust in the 
earth's atmosphere. 

The play of the fitful quivering gleams through 
[145] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

the firmament was a sublime spectacle. The mo- 
tionless air had the peculiar odor that comes from 
an excess of ozone. 

Rat Hyatt was in the throes of mortal fright. 
The dog uttered a long howl, and just at that mo- 
ment — like a yell of demonic mockery out of sul- 
phurous caverns — the unearthly tones of Tipton 
Posey's goose call resonated from the woods on 
Swallow Tail Point, and reverberated beyond the 
weirdly lighted waters. 

One or both of its builders had probably come to 
test the powers of the unholy device, and were un- 
abashed by the drama that glorified the night skies. 

With blind instinct of self preservation, Rat rose 
to his knees and made a faltering attempt to grasp 
his paddle, but his hands refused the dictates of his 
palsied brain. He cowered as one in the presence 
of the Ultimate. 

To him, in this appalling display of supernatural 
power, and the evident impending end of all things, 
had come the agony of abject terror and despair, 
and before it his rude conception of life collapsed. 

His past flashed before his distorted vision like a 
hideous nightmare. His world suddenly lost reality. 
The human creatures in it changed to throngs of 
fleeting phantoms, impelled by unseen forces. They 
glared, grinned and gibbered at each other, as they 
hurried through the mist, and vanished into the 
oblivion from which they came. 

In the realm of fear there are ghastly solitudes. 
They pervade dim phosphorescent glows on ocean 

[146] 



MUSKRAT HYATT'S REDEMPTION 

floors, and they brood in the desolation around the 
poles. They creep into awe stricken hearts when 
the filmy strands, that sustain the Ego on its frail 
human web are broken, and the denuded spirit 
stands in utter loneliness at the brink of Chaos. 

In the course of an hour the wonderful radiance, 
that had transfigured the heavens, and chilled the 
marrow bones of Rat Hyatt, ceased as suddenly as 
it had begun. The frightful unknown sounds from 
the woods were not repeated. 

Rat finally succeeded in getting on his feet. He 
pushed his canoe out into the channel and started 
up stream, but it was a changed man who swung 
the long paddle. His soul had been rarefied in chas- 
tening flames. He was as one who had met his 
Maker face to face, and his only hope now was that 
his life span might be mercifully extended until he 
could make amends for the past. 

He reached the house boat in the early morning, 
much exhausted, and threw himself on the rude bed, 
where his shattered nerves found partial repose. 

His sleep was much troubled. He awoke with a 
sudden start late in the afternoon, and, lashed by 
an avenging conscience, slid his canoe into the river 
and hurried up stream to find the Reverend Daniel 
Butters, a venerable preacher, who lived about six 
miles away. To him he would carry his heavy 
laden heart, and in the consolations of religion seek 
forgiveness and peace. 

The Reverend Butters was known far and wide as 
" Dismal Dan," and was referred to in Bill Stiles's 

[147] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

chronicles as "the Javelin of the Lord." He was 
an eccentric, heavily bewhiskered old character, who 
believed in the Church Militant, and had exhorted, 
quoted reproving scripture, and made doleful 
prophecies in the river country for two normal gen- 
erations. 

In the little weather beaten country church, up 
the river, his small audiences consisted of aged 
ladies and pious old settlers, who were already 
saved, and did not need the rescuing hand. He 
preached Calvinistic damnation in the belief that 
fear of hell was a more potent factor in human re- 
demption than hope of reward. 

His principal authority on hell was Jonathan Ed- 
wards, a fiery divine, who glowed in Massachusetts 
about two hundred years ago. During his eruptive 
period, Edwards's sermons on damnation blistered 
and enriched the sectarian literature of his time. 
Dismal Dan frequently resurrected and reheated 
these old printed sermons, and hurled the sputter- 
ing embers at his inoffensive listeners. 

He had not made a convert for many years. Of 
late his powers of spiritual persuasion had lan- 
guished, and, like his hearers, had become atrophied. 

He was a revivalist who did not revive. He 
needed new and pliant material, and when Muskrat 
Hyatt had told his errand he was welcomed as one 
who had fled from among the Pharisees. Out of the 
wilderness of sin a lowly suppliant had come. 

They talked of the mysterious and unknown light 
that had illumined the' heavens the night before, and 

[148] 




The Reverend Daniel Butters 



MUSKRAT HYATT'S REDEMPTION 

the terrifying sounds that had come over the waters. 
Dismal Dan pronounced it all to be a "manifesta- 
tion." He had long expected signs and angry por- 
tents in the skies as a warning to sinners. Prob- 
ably his biased mind would eagerly have ascribed 
divine origin to any natural phenomenon that shooed 
fish into his ministerial net. 

They spent many days and nights in prayer and 
assiduous scriptural readings. A far away look came 
into Hyatt's eyes, and an elevation of brow that did 
not seem to be of this world. The spiritual calm of 
the neophite within cloistered walls was his. He 
had laid a contrite heart upon the altar of his fears, 
and on it rested celestial rays. 

He interrupted the period of his reconstruction 
with a trip down the river to visit Malindy Taylor. 
Just what passed at the duck farm was never known, 
but, after three days, Malindy opened her heart of 
stone to the penitent. They came up the stream in 
the canoe, and, as the enraptured township corre- 
spondent of the county paper expressed it, "they 
were united on the front porch in the sacred bonds 
of holy matrimony, by the Reverend Daniel But- 
ters, on the afternoon of Thursday, the bridegroom 
being attired in conventional black, and the bride 
with a bouquet of white flowers." 

Rat betook himself to the duck farm with his 
bride. He removed all his traps from the marsh, 
for he now considered the problem of his future 
earthly existence solved, without the necessity of 
very much hard work. 

T1491 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

He made frequent visits to Dismal Dan, but kept 
entirely away from the store. That place was a sink 
of iniquity that he desired to avoid. He and the old 
man spent many hours together that were sweet- 
ened with blissful discourse. Dismal Dan felt that 
a life time devoted to expounding the gospels had 
found glorious fruition in the salvation of Muskrat 
Hyatt, and he was greatly elated by the sustained 
piety of the proselyte. 

He proposed to Brother Hyatt that they go to- 
gether to the store, and, if possible, ''convert the 
bunch on the platform." In his opinion a success- 
ful attack on that citadel of sin would practically 
put the devil out of business in the river country. 

Brother Hyatt willingly consented. He was with- 
out fear of ridicule. He floated in an atmosphere 
of moral purity that the mockery of sinners could 
not defile. 

They took a Bible, two old hymn books, and some 
lunch to the canoe, and, accompanied by the trust- 
ful and devoted Spot, they proceeded down the 
river. They stopped at the house boat and secured 
the gun and cartridges that the trapper had left 
in exchange for the dog, and went on down to the 
bridge. 

On the river they practiced some of the old hymns, 
in the rendition of which Brother Hyatt displayed 
a woeful technique. They finally gave up trying to 
sing them, and Brother Butters droned out the 
rhythmic lines in a most doleful way, that Brother 
Hyatt soon imitated successfully. 

E150] 



MUSKRAT HYATT'S REDEMPTION 

Brother Butters then outlined the form of ex- 
hortation that he would use at the store, and in- 
structed his assistant how he was to cooperate with 
deep and loud aniens, whenever big climaxes were 
reached. Minor climaxes were to be left to Brother 
Hyatt's judgment. He was to watch Brother But- 
ters, and when the forefinger was raised above the 
head, an amen of more than usual sonorousness was 
to be forthcoming. 

Brother Hyatt had studied the hymn books in- 
dustriously, and had selected scattered verses that 
pleased him and seemed appropriate. They were 
laboriously copied on loose sheets of paper. It was 
his intention to introduce these snatches of hymns 
into Brother Butters 's sermon with the amens, 
whenever possible, and they both considered that 
holy power would thereby be added to the exhorta- 
tion. The order in which the extracts were to be 
introduced was considered on the way down, but the 
sheets got somewhat mixed in Brother Hyatt's 
pocket before it was time to use them. 

The enemies of Satan, with their carefully pre- 
pared batteries of pious invective and Calvinistio 
hymns, landed safely under the bridge, late in the 
afternoon. The canoe was pulled out. Brother 
Hyatt peeked over the top of the embankment, and 
saw that the chairs on the store platform were all 
filled, and that its edge was festooned with the usual 
attendants. 

Tipton Posey, Pop Wilkins, Bill Stiles, Doc Dust, 
Bill Wirrick, "the Jaundiced Viking," "the Ser- 

[151] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

pent's Hiss," and the other " regulars," were all 
there. The vineyard looked ripe and inviting. 

Bill Stiles hailed the proselyters cordially as they 
approached the stronghold. 

"Say, Rat, whar you been buried all this time?" 

"Bill, they's sump'n wonderful happened to me. 
I've got religion. A great light 'as come to me, an' 
I've repented of all my sins. I've brought that gun 
an' them catritches that I traded yer dog fer, an' 
I want you to find that feller an' give 'em back to 
'im. I done wrong, an' I want to square things up. 
Three or four times I sold Spot, knowin' he'd come 
home, but I've spent the money. I'm goin' to git 
some of my friends to pay back ev'ry cent, if I c'n 
find the fellers that bought 'im." 

"That'll make yer friends awful happy, Rat. Say, 
you cert'nly are a pippin! What done all this?" 

"Never mind, Bill, you'll see the light some day. 
No man knows w'en the spirit cometh. Brother 
Butters an' I are goin' to hold some services out in 
front o' the store this afternoon. We want all the 
chairs fixed nice an' even. Brother Butters will 
preach, an' I'm goin' to line out hymn passages 
'long with the sermon. We aint got no music, but 
me linin' 'em out '11 be jest the same as if they was 
played in tunes, fer it'll show what they are. I 
hope that some o' you fellers '11 bite at what's of- 
fered." 

Rat was regarded with much concealed levity and 
mock respect, as he arranged the chairs in a curved 

[152] 



MUSKRAT HYATT'S REDEMPTION 

row, and further developments were awaited with 
suppressed interest. 

Bill Stiles joyfully accepted the center of the row. 
Tipton Posey and the Serpent's Hiss were at the 
ends. After the chairs were filled the rest of the 
audience sat along the edge of the platform and 
dangled its feet. 

Brother Butters and Brother Hyatt brought out 
a box, which they placed on the ground about twenty 
feet from the audience. Brother Butters thought 
that a little distance would add dignity and 
solemnity. 

During the preparations the similarity of the 
chair arrangement on the platform to that in the 
minstrel show at the county seat, which nearly 
everybody present had attended during the preced- 
ing winter, occurred to Tipton Posey. 

"Mr. Brown!" he called to Bill Stiles in the 
center. 

"Yes, Mr. Bones!" responded Bill, instantly 
catching the spirit of the occasion. 

"Mr. Brown, why is this congregation like a ten 
penny nail?" 

"I don't know, Mr. Bones, why this congregation 
is like a ten penny nail. Why is this congregation 
like a ten penny nail?" 

"Because, Mr. Brown, it's goin' to be driven in," 
sagely replied Mr. Bones, with a significant glance 
at the gathering rain clouds overhead. 

"Gentlemen, please shed yer hats!" said Brother 
Hyatt, as he pounded for order on the box with a 

[153] 



THE VANISHING KIVER 

carrot that he had taken from a basket in the store. 
"Brother Butters will now lead in prayer." 

During the invocation, which was brief but heart- 
felt, Spot walked out and stretched himself on the 
ground in front of the box. Brother Butters and 
Brother Hyatt both ended the prayer with loud 
amens. 

"Here are the lines o' the first hymn," announced 
Brother Hyatt. 

"Blow ye the trumpet! blow 
The gladly solemn sound — 
Let all the nations know, 
To earth's remotest bound, 
The day of Jubilee is come, 
Return, ye ransomed sinners, home! 

And now the living waters flow, 
To cheer the humble soul; 
From sea to sea the rivers go, 
And spread from pole to pole." 

Brother Butters then began his discourse, most of 
which consisted of written extracts from old Cal- 
vinistic exhortations. 

"Our sermon this afternoon is on the subject of 
the eternity of hell torments, and the text is from 
Matthew 25-46: "These shall go away into ever- 
lasting punishment." 

Brother Hyatt:— "A-A-MEN!— Now feel ye the 
sting of the lash of the prophet!" 

"Lo, on a narrow neck of land, 
Twixt two unbounded seas I stand, 
Yet how insensible ! 
A point of time, a moment's space, 
Removes me to yon heav'nly place, 
Or shuts me up in hell! " 

[154] 



MUSKRAT HYATT'S REDEMPTION 

Brother Butters: — ''You have a glorious oppor- 
tunity today that may never come again. The door 
of mercy is opened wide, but the path that leads to 
it is long and narrow. A slight swerve leads to the 
fiery pit. Many come from the east, the west, the 
north, the south, and many fall. We may conceive 
of the fierceness of that awful fire of wrath if we 
think of a spider, or other noisome insect, thrown 
into the midst of glowing coals. How immediately 
it yields, and curls, and withers in the frightful 
heat! What pleasure we take in its agonizing de- 
struction! Here is a little image of what ye may 
expect if ye persist in sin, and a picture of the place 
where pestilential sinners wail." 

Brother Hyatt:— "A-A-MEN!— Oh, hear ye the 
happy message I" 

"Since man by sin has lost his God, 
He seeks creation through, 
And vainly hopes for solid bliss, 
In trying something new." 

Brother Butters : — ' ' The thought comes to me that 
the row of sinners in yonder chairs typifies sin in 
its vilest form — that of a snake. Tip at one end 
suggests the tail, and Dick Shakes, whom ye call 
'the Serpent's Hiss,' at the other, represents the 
loathsome head. It was a snake that carried sin 
into the Garden of Eden. It is a snake that con- 
fronts the Lord's servants at this meeting, and, in 
my mind's eye, I see that writhing serpent, breeze- 
shaken and hair-hung, over the yawning abyss of 
hell!" 

[155] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

Brother Hyatt: — "Can you beat that?" 

"Oh, blissful thought! 
There seems a voice in ev'ry gale, 
A tongue in ev 'ry op 'ning flower ! ' ' 

Bill Stiles:— " This is hot stuff!" 

Brother Butters : — "How will the duration of tor- 
ment without end cause the heart to melt like wax ! 
Even those proud, sturdy, and hell-hardened spirits, 
the devils, tremble at the thoughts of that greater 
torture, which they are to suffer on the day of judg- 
ment. The poor damned souls of men will have their 
misery vastly augmented. 

Brother Hyatt :— " A- A-MEN !— They will get the 
limit!" 

"Oh, Lord, behold me, 
And see how vile I am ! ' ' 

Brother Butters : — The fierceness of a great fire, 
as when a house is all in flames, gives one an idea 
of its rage, and we see that the greater the fire is, 
the fiercer is its heat in every part, and the reason 
is, because one part heats another part." 

Bill Stiles: — "If that rain don't come pretty soon 
you fellers' talk '11 set fire to that box!" 

Brother Hyatt: — "The mockery of sinners avail- 
eth not ! Now listen to another verse ! ' ' 

"I love to tell the story, 
'Tis pleasant to repeat 
What seems each time I tell it, 
More wonder fully sweet." 

Brother Butters : — "We have seen that the misery 
of the departed soul of a sinner, besides what it 

[156] 



MUSKRAT HYATT'S REDEMPTION 

now feels, consists in amazing fears of what is yet 
to come. When the union of the soul and the body 
is actually broken, and the body has fetched its 
last gasp, the soul forsakes the old habitation, and 
then falls into the hands of devils, who fly upon it, 
and sieze it more violently than ever hungry lions 
flew upon their prey. ' ' 

Brother Hyatt:— "A-A-MEN!!!— Oh, what a fin- 
ish ! They are no ice hunks there ! ' ' 

"Fresh as the grass our bodies stand, 
And flourish bright as day — 
A blasting wind sweeps o 'er the land, 
And fades the grass away ! ' ' 

Brother Butters: — "We now come to the joy of 
the saints in heaven who behold the sufferings of 
sinners and unbaptized infants in hell. They shall 
see their doleful state, and it will heighten their 
sense of blessedness. When they shall see the smoke 
of their torment, and the raging of the flames, and 
hear their dolorous shrieks and cries, and consider 
that they in the meantime are in the most blissful 
state for all eternity, how they will rejoice!" 

Brother Hyatt: — ''Oh, listen ye to the comforts 
of the church! Oh, speed that happy day!" 

"Hark! Hark! The notes of joy 
Eoll o'er the heav'nly plains, 
And all the seraphs find employ 
For their sublimest strains!" 

Brother Butters: — "The scriptures plainly teach 
that the saints in glory shall see the doleful state 
of the damned, and witness the execution of 
Almighty wrath." 

[157] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 
Brother Hyatt:— "A-A-MEN!" 

"Oh, the transporting rapturous scene, 
That rises to my sight!" 

Brother Butters: — "The sight of hell torments 
will exalt the happiness of the saints forever, and 
give them a more lively relish of the joys of their 
heavenly home. The righteous and the wicked in 
the other world will see each other's state. Thus 
the rich man in hell, and Lazarus and Abraham in 
heaven, are represented as seeing each other in the 
16th chapter of Luke. The wicked in their misery 
will see the saints in the kingdom of heaven. — Luke 
13-28-29. 'There shall be weeping and gnashing of 
teeth, when ye shall see Abraham and Isaac and 
Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, 
and you yourselves thrust out." 

Brother Hyatt: — 

"The seraphs bright are hov'ring 
Around the throne above — 
Their harps are ever tuning 
To thrilling strains of love I 
They'll tell the sweet old story 
I always loved so well! 
Oh, let me float in glory 
And hear sinners wail in hell ! ' ' 

Brother Butters : — "Now come we to the procras- 
tination practiced by the average sinner, and in 
Proverbs 27-1 we find the words, 'Boast not thyself 
of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may 
bring forth.' " 

[158] 



MUSKRAT HYATT'S REDEMPTION 
Brother Hyatt : — 

"The lilies of the field, 
That quickly fade away, 
May well to us a lesson yield, 
For we are frail as they ! ' ' 

Brother Butters: — "Dear friends, tomorrow is 
not our own. There are many ways and means 
whereby the lives of men are ended. It is written 
in the book of Job, chapter 21, verse 23, that 'One 
dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and 
quiet.' " 

Brother Hyatt: — "A-A-MEN! — Now listen ye 
unto these words!" 

"Melt, melt, these frozen hearts, 
These stubborn wills subdue; 
Each evil passion overcome, 
And form them all anew ! ' ' 

Brother Butters: — "Oh, ye unregenerates, that 
wallow in sin and wickedness on that platform ! God 
despises you, and the flames await you! Go down 
upon your accursed knees tonight and beseech sal- 
vation. This is Friday, Saturday may be too late, 
and everything in the way of grace may be gone ! ' ' 

Brother Hyatt: — "Slim chance fer this bunch! 
It 's you to the red hot hooks ! ' ' 

"Hark! What celestial notes, 
What melody do we hear? 
Soft on the morn it floats, 
And fills the ravished ear ! ' ' 

Brother Butters: — "How can you be reasonably 
quiet for one day, or for one night, when you know 
not when the end will come ? If you should be found 
unregenerate, how fearful would be the consequence ! 

[159] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

Consider and harken unto this counsel ! Repent and 
be prepared for death! The bow of wrath is bent^ 
the arrow is made ready on the string, and nothing 
but the restraint of Almighty anger keeps the arrow 
one moment from being made drunk with your 
blood!" 

Brother Hyatt:— "A-A-MEN!! A-A-MEN ! !— Oh, 
ye tight wads of iniquity, loosen up, fer this is the 
last call !" 

"Let floods of penitential grief 
Burst forth from ev 'ry eye ! ' ' 

Brother Butters : — ' ' Be prepared for the opening 
of the eternal gates of pearl that are bathed in the 
light that shines for the meek and the pure in heart. 
The blessings of repentance are now before you. 
The choice of taking or leaving is yours!" 

Brother Hyatt: — "Nuthin' could be fairer than 
that!" 

"Oh, Bless the harps that played the tune, 
That brings us together this afternoon ! ' ' 

Brother Butters: — "Be prepared for that awful 
day of judgment, when the paths that lead to 
heaven and the paths that lead to hell are divided 
by the width of a hair!" 

Brother Hyatt :— ' ' A-A-MEN— A-A-MEN ! ! ! " 

' ' There is a fountain filled with blood, 
Drawn from Immanuel's veins, 
And sinners plunged beneath that flood, 
Lose all their guilty stains." 

At this point the rain descended out of the kindly 
skies, the flaming oratory was extinguished, and 

[160] 



MUSKRAT HYATT'S REDEMPTION 

everybody retreated into the store. It was getting 
dark, and while the services were not completed, the 
exhorters felt that much spiritual progress had 
been made. 

Most of the regulars departed silently when the 
shower was over. 

"Say, Rat, was that you down on the marsh the 
night we tried the goose call?" asked Bill Wirrick. 
"I seen somebody out near the channel w'en them 
funny streaks was in the sky. Since it all come 
out about the goose call we don't try to keep it dark 
no more. The fellers 'round the store got onto it, 
an' they've been devillin' the life out o' me an' Tip. 
The dad gasted thing wouldn't work an' we've took 
it apart. We tried to make it sound like a flock o' 
geese, but it sounded more like a flock o' thunder 
storms. Them sky streaks that night was a funny 
thing. They's a paper here some'rs that's got it 
all in. Lemme see if I c'n find it. Tip had it yis- 
terd'y." 

Wirrick finally found the newspaper. Hyatt took 
it to the dim kerosene lamp and spent some time 
studying the long account of the magnetic storm. 
It was explained by scientific authorities, and be- 
moaned by the interests it had affected. The tele- 
graph and telephone companies had been put out 
of business for several hours, and commerce had 
suffered while Hyatt's soul was being purified in 
celestial fires. 

Disillusionment came. As long as the things that 
were going on in this world were natural, and could 

[161] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

be explained, Rat saw no reason for worrying about 
the next. A cherished idol was shattered ; his piety- 
was dead sea fruit. 

"With the calmness of a cool gamester, who has 
thrown and lost his all — slightly pale, but with firm 
and deliberate step, he went behind the door and 
secured the rifle and cartridges he had asked Bill 
Stiles to restore to the swindled trapper. With no 
word of farewell to those around him, he lighted his 
long neglected old pipe, reeking with sin and nico- 
tine, whistled to Spot, and walked away down the 
path to the river bank where the canoe had been 
left, and disappeared. 

Brother Butters went out on the platform and 
looked longingly after him. 

Night had fallen upon the river. Somewhere far 
away in the purple gloom, that softly lay upon its 
dimpling and restless tide, was a lost sheep. Its 
fleece had become black, but it was more precious 
than the ninety and nine that were still within the 
fold. 



[162] 



VII 
THE TUEKEY CLUB 



VII 

THE TURKEY CLUB 

W]'RE go in' to take you up the river to 
the Turkey Club tomorrer," announced 
"Rat" Hyatt, as we left Posey's store 
one night. "There's goin' to be some doin's there 
that you'll like, an' you'll meet a lot o' people you 
never seen before, an' prob'ly some you won't never 
want to see ag'in." 

We had spent the evening with the usual group 
that clustered around the smoky stove when the 
weather rendered the platform outside uncomfort- 
able. It was late in the fall and Thanksgiving was 
only a few days away, but Indian Summer still 
lingered, with its purple days and frosty nights, and 
I was loth to leave the river country while it lasted. 

The council around the stove often varied in com- 
position, but not in character. It was always pic- 
turesque, not only in its light and shade and color, 
but in the primitive philosophy, spontaneous wit, 
original profanity and ornate narrative that issued 
from it. 

On this occasion "Pop" Wilkins had told, with 
much circumstantial detail, a long story about his 
old plug hat. He said it "was minted about thirty 

[165] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

years ago some'rs down east," and was bought for 
him by subscription by the congregation over which 
he at that time presided. The hat was in the Alle- 
gheny river a couple of days during its journey to 
his address, but when it finally got to him the con- 
gregation had it all fixed up so that everybody said 
it was just as good as new. Since then he had only 
had to have it repaired twice. He had a great affec- 
tion for it, on account of its old associations, and 
hoped that it would be buried with him when he 
died — a hope that was shared by all present. The 
old plug was an echo of years long departed and a 
never-failing butt of merry jest. The tickets of all 
the raffles that had ever been held in that part of 
the country, that anybody could remember, had been 
shaken up in Pop's hat. 

The old man's story had reminded his listeners 
of others, and it was quite late when Posey remarked 
that he was going upstairs to bed, and "to keep 
things from bein' carried off" he was "gom* to 
lock up." 

At ten the next morning five of us started up 
stream in three of the small boats that were usually 
attached to stakes under the bridge. Hyatt and I 
were in his duck canoe, which he skilfully propelled 
with his long paddle. Posey and Pop Wilkins fol- 
lowed, in a leaky green craft with squeaky oars. 
Far in the rear Bill Stiles stemmed the gentle cur- 
rent in his "push boat," which he declared was 
never intended for anybody but him. This idea had 
been generally accepted along the river, for Bill's 

[166] 








'Bill" Styles 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

boat was the only one for many miles up and down 
stream that had never been borrowed or stolen. 
The fact that it was so " tippy" that nobody but 
Bill seemed to be able to sit in it without being 
spilled into the river accounted for its immunity. 

"Some day," remarked Bill, "a cold wet 
stranger '11 come to the store to git warm, an' tell 
some kind of a story about fallin' off en the bridge 
into the river, but ev'rybody'll know what's hap- 
pened. Nobody that's acquainted 'round 'ere '11 ever 
try to navigate with my push boat." 

He called the craft < ' The Flapjack. ' ' The roughly 
lettered name appeared in yellow paint on each side 
of the bow, and to his subtle mind, it was a sufficient 
warning to the unwary. He said that the name was 
also lettered along the bottom of the boat under- 
neath, "an' anybody that wants to c'n take e'r out'n 
the river an' read it. She won't keep 'im wait'n 
more'n a few minutes." 

The river was low and we scraped gently over a 
few sand bars on the way up. After proceeding 
about two miles we came to a wobbly and much 
patched bridge, on which were several figures. A 
fringe of cane fish poles drooped idly from its sides. 
The figures were motionless and would remain so 
until the Turkey Club activities began. 

"Here's where we git off," said Hyatt, as we 
turned in near the bridge. We waited for the rest 
of the flotilla to come up. When our party had all 
arrived we climbed a zig-zag path and walked along 
the road to the little gray church a few hundred feet 

[167] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

away. It was here that the Reverend Daniel Butters 
— "The Javelin of the Lord" — was wont to expound 
the gospels, formulate dreary doctrines, and to de- 
pict the frightfulness of damnation to his superan- 
nuated and docile flock. 

So far as human faith and opinion could influence 
the destinies of any of these aged and serene be- 
lievers, their spiritual safety had been assured for 
many years. They went regularly to church, prin- 
cipally because they wanted to be seen there, and 
because they had nothing else particularly to do or 
think about Sundays. Alas, how the ranks of 
worldly worshipers would dwindle were it not for 
these things! 

Like that of many preachers, the voice of Butters 
was of one crying in a desert to passing airs and 
unheeding sands. There were none to succor or 
uplift, and none to be beckoned to the fold. They 
were all in, and further effort was painting the lily 
and adding perfume to the rose. The strife was 
won, but yet he battled on. The great tide of human 
error flowed far beyond his ken, and he could drag 
no spiritual spoil from its turbid waters. 

In fancy his religious establishment might be 
likened to a cocoon, into which none might enter, 
and from which none might emerge, except in a new 
and glorified state. 

Some mournful Lombardy poplars stood in front 
of the unpainted structure, and on one side was the 
little cemetery, with its serried mounds and conven- 
tional epitaphs. A weeping willow wept near the 

[168] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

center of the plot, some rabbits hopped about near 
the broken fence at the farther side of the enclosure, 
and a stray cow fed peacefully among the leaning 
slabs. 

' ' There 's a lot o ' people represented in that flock 
o' tombstones," observed Hyatt, as we turned in 
from the road, "an' they's a lot o' cussedness out 
there that it's a good thing to have covered up." 

Both physically and spiritually the old church was 
a dismal remnant, but it was the regional social cen- 
ter. The building was utilized in many profane 
ways that saddened the pious heart of the Reverend 
Butters, but to him, its crowning desecration was 
the Turkey Club. 

The membership of this unique organization com- 
prised practically all of the male population within 
eight or ten miles up and down the river — and Sophy 
Perkins, of whom more hereafter. Most of the small 
politicians of the county were affiliated with the 
club, and used it for such propaganda as from time 
to time befitted their objects and petty ambitions. 
Originally its purpose was to foster and finance the 
annual " turkey shoot." This popular event usually 
just preceded Thanksgiving, and was the occasion 
of a general holiday. 

During the forty odd years of the club's existence 
it had gradually broadened the scope of its early 
activities until it became more or less identified with 
pretty much everything of a local public character. 
Its only rival as a social focus was Posey's store. 

Under its auspices the Fourth of July, golden 
[169] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

weddings, and other anniversaries, were celebrated. 
Dances, amateur theatricals, old settlers' picnics, 
tax protest meetings, lectures, political " rallies," 
" grand raffles," dog and chicken fights, greased pig 
contests, quilting bees, ministerial showers and other 
affairs were "pulled off" during the year. The 
ministerial showers were about the only functions 
that the Reverend Butters did not consider unholy. 

There were special meetings for discussion of 
diverse subjects, including the mistakes of congress, 
advice to the President, the tariff, the oppressions 
of capital, the tyranny of labor, prohibition, the 
negro question, restriction of immigration, Shakes- 
peare criticism, the Wrongs of Ireland, and a host 
of other things that generated heat and lasting 
acrimony. The meetings sometimes approached 
turbulency when some over-zealous orator gave vent 
to unpopular ideas, or made statements that seemed 
to justify somebody in the audience in calling him 
a liar. Few participants ever left convinced of 
anything in particular, except the correctness of the 
opinions they had brought with them. 

"We found a gathering of about a hundred club 
members and numerous small boys in the grove back 
of the church. We strolled about through the crowd 
and I was introduced by my companions to a number 
of their old friends. 

Bill was the official head of the club and deservedly 
popular. To the small boys he was a deified person- 
age. His constitutional title was "Chief Gobbler," 
and he bore it with easy grace and a quiet air of 

[170] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

noblesse oblige. His opinion prevailed on club mat- 
ters, except when Sophy Perkins was in contact with 
the situation, and this was most of the time. 

Sophy was the secretary, treasurer, general man- 
ager, board of directors, and, to her mind, consti- 
tuted the greater part of the membership, although 
her duties were supposed to be merely clerical. All 
her life she had yearned for something besides her 
husband to regulate and superintend, and the Tur- 
key Club had been a godsend. 

She was a somewhat attenuated female, on the 
regretful side of fifty. Her physiognomy was re- 
pelling and expressed characteristics of an alley 
cat. There was a predatory gleam in her narrowly 
placed greenish eyes. They bespoke malignant 
jealousy and relentless cupidity. She seemed en- 
veloped by an atmosphere — vague and indefinable — 
that prompted cautious and immediate retirement 
from her vicinity. In private conversation she was 
commonly referred to as "The Stinger," and the 
soubriquet seemed to have been justly earned by a 
badly speckled record of secret intrigue and under- 
handed methods. Anonymous letters, petty trickery 
and duplicity in manifold forms were included in 
the misdeeds that had been tacitly laid at Sophy's 
door. 

She was of that female type that demands all 
male privileges, in addition to those of her own sex, 
and she often took advantage of the fact that she 
was a woman to do and say things that she would 
probably have been knocked down for if she had been 

[171] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

a man — one of the most contemptible forms of cow- 
ardice. 

Her shortcomings were legion, but nobody else 
was available who was willing to carry the burden 
of the clerical duties of the club, and she was allowed 
to run things to her heart's content. Her main re- 
ward was the occasional mention of her name in the 
county paper, in connection with the activities of 
the club. She treasured the carefully garnered clip- 
pings and gloated over them through the dreary 
years. To her they were precious incense, and, 
while they gratified, but never satisfied her vanity 
and hunger for notoriety, they were the compensa- 
tion of her narrow and disappointed life, and the 
food of her impoverished and selfish spirit. 

She was without the consolations of religion, the 
resources of culture, or the sweet recompense of 
children's voices, to soften the asperities of her 
fruitless existence. The gray hairs had come and 
there was no love around Sophy, for she had sent 
forth none during the period of life in which temples 
of the soul must be builded, if kindly light beams 
from their windows, and there be fit sanctuary for 
the weary spirit in the after years. 

Successive official heads of the club, who seemed 
to be attracting more public attention than Sophy, 
were submarined, made officially sick, and retired 
gracefully. The supply of these official heads finally 
became restricted, and for the past few years Bill's 
incumbency had been undisturbed, although he fre- 
quently threatened to " throw up the job." 

[172] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

J. Montgomery Perkins was a subdued helpmate. 
He was an inoffensive little man, who was always 
alluded to as "Sophy's husband," and when this 
happened somebody would usually exclaim sympa- 
thetically, "Poor Perk!" 

Of late years the club had suffered from "too 
much Sophy Perkins." Interest had begun to lag 
and apathy was creeping over the membership. 

"You want to look out fer Sophy," confided 
Hyatt, before I had met her. "She's got a lot o' 
wires loose in the upper story, but she knows where 
the ends of all of 'em are when they's anything in 
it fer her." 

Promptly at 2 P.M. Bill pounded with a big stick 
on a board that was sustained at the ends by the 
heads of two resonant barrels. The confused hum 
of voices ceased and the eyes of the scattered groups 
were upon him. Sophy whispered to him that he 
was now to announce the opening of the shoot. It 
was Bill's intention to do this anyway, but Sophy 
thought it better that she should take part in what 
was going on. Substantially his remarks were as 
follows : 

"Gentlemen and One Lady: This ain't no time 
fer a long speech. The annual turkey shoot o' this 
club's now on, an' anybody that's paid 'is dues an' 
'is entrance fee c'n git in on the game. Ten fat 
an' husky birds are in them boxes, an' the boxes 
are fifty yards from the rope that's stretched be- 
tween them two trees, an' that's the shoot 'n stand. 
The chair has made the meas'erments. The birds '11 

[173] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

keep their heads poked up out o' the holes in the 
tops o' the boxes to rubber at the scenery, an' they 
gotta be killed by a bullet in the head er neck. 
Hit'n 'em through the boxes don't go this year like 
it did last. Them stone piles is to protect 'em up 
to the tops. Any eggs found in the boxes after 
the shoot 'n belongs to the winners. Ev'ry shooter '11 
have ten shots for 'is dollar, an' 'e must stand an' 
shoot without rest'n 'is rifle on anything but 'imself. 
No bullet bigger 'n yer thumb's allowed. If you bust 
the bird's head, er break 'is neck, it's yours, an' if 
you don't hit nuth'n in the first ten shots you c'n 
buy more chances as long as the turkeys an' yer 
money last. The money from the shoot 'n '11 go to 
pay fer the fowls, an' if they's any live ones left 
after the show, they'll be auctioned off to the high- 
est bidders, if they don't git insulted by the low 
bids an' fly off with the boxes. 

"I guess I've told all they is to say, but if they's 
anything anybody don't understand, er if anybody's 
got any kick comin ', speak up. Oh, yes, I f ergot to 
say there '11 be a booby prize of a little tin horn with 
a purple ribbon on it, fer them that can't shoot 
should be allowed to toot. If they ain't no objection 
the shoot 'n '11 now commence." 

With another loud bang on the board the address 
closed and the crowd drifted toward the taut rope. 

"Hold on there!" yelled Sophy Perkins, fran- 
tically waving a small book. " Nobody's paid a cent 
yet!" 

"You fellers '11 have to ante up before any blood 
[174] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

runs ! ' ' shouted Bill as he again pounded the board. 

Nineteen contestants qualified at the barrel behind 
which Sophy presided. Her fishy orbs lighted up 
at the sight of the money, which she deftly deposited 
in her stocking after modestly turning her back to 
the crowd. 

"She'll chaperone that cash to the day o' the 
resurrection if somebody don't kep tab on it," said 
Hyatt in an undertone as the proceeds disappeared 
among the mysteries of Sophy's apparel. We're 
goin' to put rollers under that old girl some day, but 
we can't do it till we c'n git somebody else willin' 
to do the work." 

Posey and Hyatt were provided with firearms, 
and Pop Wilkins had brought an old-fashioned 
muzzle loading rifle with a long barrel, which he 
handled with much tenderness. 

"I used to shoot lady-bugs offen the edges o' 
the leaves on the tops o' high trees with this old 
iron when I was young an' spry, an' mebbe I'll hit 
sump'n with it today," he declared, as he ambled 
over toward the shooting stand. 

1 ' I didn 't bring no gun, an ' I won 't do no shoot 'n, ' ' 
remarked Bill. "It wouldn't be dignified fer me as 
head of the club, an' it wouldn't be fair fer the rest 
fer me to shoot. It 'ud be like swip'n candy from 
little boys." 

As Bill had not been known to kill anything with 
a gun for over twenty years, his explanation was 
accepted without comment. 

Mr. Joshua T. Varney appeared at this stage of 

[175] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

the proceedings, and offered to take two dollars ' 
worth of chances and pay three dollars premium, if 
he could have the first trial and twenty successive 
shots. As it usually took a great many shots to hit 
a turkey's head at fifty yards, his proposition was 
accepted after some discussion. 

"Josh" Varney was a traveling salesman, who 
for several years had periodically visited Posey's 
store, on his rounds through the county, and sold 
supplies adapted to the general country trade. 

He was a smooth faced man of about forty, with 
keen gray eyes, a good story teller, and from him 
radiated the assurance and suavity of his kind. He 
had always been a "good mixer," and was consid- 
ered an all around good fellow. He had joined the 
club two years before, but had never attended a 
"shoot." 

He went to his buggy, that stood near the road- 
side among numerous other vehicles, and returned 
with a small repeating rifle. He then stepped over 
to the rope and began shooting at the bobbing heads 
above the boxes. In this way hundreds of venerable 
gobblers and dignified hen turkeys had lost their 
lives in past years through innocent curiosity as to 
the doings of the outside world. 

The birds were all dead when Mr. Varney had 
fired fourteen times. Quiet but well chosen profanity 
troubled the air when the tenth bird succumbed and 
the performance was ended. 

Bill again belabored the board and announced 
the end of the contest. 

[176] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

" Gentlemen, you prob'ly notice that the shoot 'n's 
all over! Sump'n has been done unto us, an' some- 
body has had an elegant pastime. This ain't been 
no turkey shoot, it's been a horr'ble massacre, an' 
after this all Deadwood Dicks '11 be barred, unless 
they git a mile away when they shoot at anything 
'round 'ere. We better kill our turkeys with axes 
after this, an' only sell the chance o' one whopp. 
We ain't got but one booby prize, an' I guess you 
all better take turns bio win' on it. This ain't been no 
kind of a day, an' it's come to a sad end. The club '11 
now perceed to its annual business, an' as the day 
is nice an' warm we might as well do it out doors 
'stid o' goin' in an' muss'n up the church. Sophy, 
what you got on the fire that 'as to be 'tended to ? " 

"They ain't no business that I can't tend to my- 
self," replied Sophy grimly. "The treasurer's re- 
port's been left home by accident, an' they ain't 
nuth'n else to come up, 'less somebody wants to 
pay dues, or you want to 'lect some new members." 

With this she favored me with a stealthy sidelong 
glance and I was thereupon proposed for member- 
ship by Rat Hyatt, who added that I seemed to be 
the "only outsider present from a distance that 
hadn't hornswoggled the club durin' the past hour." 

Sophy's talon-like fingers closed quickly on the 
two-dollar bill that I handed her as the first year's 
dues, after my election and the formal adjournment 
of the meeting. 

While I was entirely out of sympathy with the 
[177] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

turkey shoots, I was glad for several reasons to 
become a member. 

After most of the crowd had dispersed I was sol- 
emnly conducted into the church and informed that, 
in order to become a full-fledged member, certain 
things must be imparted to me to complete my initia- 
tion. I was then told that all ''Turkeys" knew each 
other by certain grips and cabalistic words. The 
"grip" consisted of shaking hands with three fin- 
gers only, representing the three front toes of a 
turkey. The "countersign" was "Pop-Pop!" sig- 
nifying rifle firing at the annual shoot. The coun- 
tersign, loudly uttered, with three fingers held aloft, 
constituted "the grand high sign," and I was told 
that I must always relieve any brother Turkey who 
hungered or thirsted, and made such a sign. With 
my promise to remember all this, the ceremony, 
which my instructors, Bill and Rat, considered very 
humorous, was ended. 

The Reverend Butters had been a sorrowful spec- 
tator of the proceedings of the afternoon, but his 
furrowed face brightened when Josh Varney grace- 
fully presented him with one of the big dripping 
birds that he was carrying to his buggy. In prayer 
before his congregation on the following Sunday he 
expressed humble gratitude with the words, "Out 
of the iniquities of the world, Lord, has sus- 
tenance come to the body of thy servant, and be- 
neath a cloak of sin have Thy blessings been trans- 
mitted unto Thine anointed one." 

The relations between the old preacher and Rat 
[178] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

Hyatt had been slightly embarrassing since Rat's 
conversion and sudden backsliding of the year be- 
fore, and they had little to say to each other when 
they met. Rat was now regarded as a hopeless loss 
and a minute part of hell's future fuel supply. He 
considered'his former spiritual comforter "a busted 
wind bag," so there seemed little left to say on 
either side. 

On the way back to the boats I reflected on the 
degrading entertainment of the afternoon. Outside 
of what Pop Wilkins called "the horning in of that 
turkey pirate," the day was considered a success. 
The well aimed bullets had thrilled the spectators 
with savage joy, for somewhere in the heart of 
nearly every average human abides the primitive 
lust for blood. The marksmanship might just as 
well have been exhibited on inanimate and unsuf- 
fering targets. The helpless turkeys in the boxes 
gratified the baser instincts to the extent of their 
limitations, and when they were all dead the crowd 
went home as happy as if it had been to a bull fight, 
a prize ring, or to any other brutal spectacle dis- 
guised by pretended admiration of scientific ability. 
On the way back down the river, our boats kept close 
together and- there was much discussion over the 
day's events. 

Pop Wilkins delivered a long tirade against Var- 
ney, and wound up by modestly admitting that prob- 
ably he would have beheaded all of the birds with 
his squirrel rifle if he had had the opportunity, so* 

[179] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

after all it was merely a question as to who shot 
first. 

"That feller c'd prob'ly thread needles with that 
damn rifle," observed Bill. "I've read o' fellers 
that had telescope eyes an' a sixth sense that some- 
how couldn't miss nuth'n they ever shot at. They 
c'd plunk holes wherever they wanted to, like they 
was use'n a gimlet. I wonder what 'e wasted them 
four extry catritches fer? Prob'ly so's to make a 
nice sociable feel'n all 'round an' make 'em think 
it wasn't quite so raw. He prob'ly goes to shoots 
all over the country an* sells the plunder in the 
market. ' ' 

The chill winds of a desolate winter had swept 
through the naked woods along the river, and a 
balmy May had come, with its tender unfolding 
leaves of hope and perfumed blossoms, when Josh 
Varney again appeared on the scene. 

"Well! Well! How's everybody!" he shouted 
genially as he drove up in front of Posey's store one 
forenoon with a roan horse and a smart new buggy. 

"We're slowly git'n well. Say, Perfessor, you 
ain't got no gun with you, have you?" queried Bill, 
as the pair shook hands. ' ' 'Cause if you have they 's 
a lot of us that's go in' to hide some poultry." 

"Now, look 'ere Bill, you don't want to be sore 
'bout that little shoot 'n last fall. I gave all them 
turkeys to some poor people, an* they done a lot 
o' good. I just happened to hit 'em, an' I couldn't 
repeat that performance in a hundred years." 

"You bet you couldn't 'round 'ere if we seen you 
[180] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

first," replied Bill. "I'd hate to furnish turkeys 
fer you to shoot at fer a hundred years, an I'd hate 
to be the poor people wait'n fer you to feed the 
birds to 'em. Say, what you got up yer sleeve this 
trip? Sump'n still funnier, I s'pose." 

Posey was busy with a customer, and Varney re- 
mained with us on the platform. He produced some 
murky and doubtful cigars that Bill declared looked 
like genuine "El Hempos" and we smoked and 
talked for some time. Pop Wilkins joined us, and 
Sophy Perkins arrived at the store to purchase some 
calico. She bestowed a reserved nod and a feline 
glance on Varney, and greeted the rest of the party 
with scant politeness. She stood just inside, near 
the entrance, and utilized the time Posey was spend- 
ing with his other customer in listening to our con- 
versation. She soon became so absorbed in it that 
she forgot all about her calico and remained riveted 
to her point of vantage. Posey respected her pre- 
occupation and busied himself with other things 
after his first visitor had left through the side door. 

The chairs outside were tipped against the long 
window sill, and the party was making itself com- 
fortable in the spring sunshine. Varney was relat- 
ing a wondrous tale, and was fully aware of the 
acute eavesdropping within. Many of the romantic 
touches in his discourse were apparently for Sophy's 
benefit. 

"I got a long letter from a friend of mine," said 
Josh, as he felt through his inside pockets, "an* I 
wish I had it with me, but I guess I've left it some* 

[181] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

where. He's making a trip 'round the world an' 
'e writes me that in India he ran across a marvellous 
breed of turkeys. You know turkeys originated in 
India, an ' they come from there first about five hun- 
dred years ago. These strange birds he writes 
about live away up in the Himalaya mountains and 
are pure white. They're much larger than ordinary 
turkeys, an' their color adapts 'em to the snowy 
peaks, an ' protects 'em from the natives when they 
pursue 'em out o' the valleys, where they go to eat 
frogs along the water courses. They live almost 
entirely on frogs when they c'n git 'em. When 
they're disturbed they wing back to the frozen 
heights, an' sometimes don't come down for a year. 
When they're hunted up there they fly from crag 
to crag an' they're almost invisible, an' its a funny 
thing, but their meat's all white, too. They ain't 
no dark meat on 'em like there is on common 
turkeys. 

They lay enormous eggs an' the eggs generally 
have two yolks. Sometimes twins hatch out of 'em. 
The double yolks give an extra amount of vitality 
to the young turks, which is necessary up among 
the cold rocks where they're hatched. 

"The eggs have a delicious spicy flavor that comes 
from the spearmint and other pungent plants that 
the frogs nibble along the streams. The eggs are 
highly prized by epicures, an' there's a Frenchman 
livin' in Bombay that pays two rupees apiece for 
all 'e c'n git of 'em. He makes what 'e calls 
'omelets defrog secondaire,' or something like that, 

[182] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

with 'em, an' 'e says there's nothing like 'em. With 
him its hen eggs no more. 

" There's a sacred caste in India called the 
Brahmins, and they believe that these white turkeys 
are what they call reincarnations of a supernatural 
race of beings that ruled the earth before man 
existed. 

1 ' Somebody ought to import some o ' them turkeys 
an' breed 'em in this country. Along a river like 
this they'd find plenty to eat an' they wouldn't be 
no expense at all. My friend writes that 'e hopes 
to bring two or three back with him when 'e comes 
home, an' I'm anxious to see 'em. Oh, yes, come 
to think of it, I put a photograph in my pocket book 
that was in the letter." 

Varney thereupon produced a kodak print of a 
stately white bird. Some figures in oriental cos- 
tume, somewhat out of focus and indistinct, were 
grouped back of it in the picture. Varney explained 
that these were Brahmins and native hunters. 

Sophy peeked over the pile of straw hats in the 
window and had a good look at the photograph as 
Varney deftly held it so that it could be seen from 
that direction without appearing to do so. 

We were greatly entertained by the story. 

1 'Say, Perfessor," asked Bill, "what do them 
fowls an' their young ones feed on when they don't 
git off en the snow an' go down fer frogs'? Do they 
have to have the frogs fer their complexions?" 

"That's the strange part of it," replied Varney. 
"You see they sor + o' lead double lives. Nature is 

[183] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

wonderful in all her works. In the Himalayas 
there's a small red mosquito that has never been 
found except away above the timber line. They have 
'em out west in this country, too. They sometimes 
cover the snow so thick that it looks like blood, an' 
the little turks patter 'round on the drifts an' eaf 
'em with voracity, an' the big ones do, too." 

" * Voracity,' what's that — sump'n their mixed 
with?" asked Bill. 

"No, it means their awful appetite." 

"I'd s'pose them skeets 'ud make the turkey meat 
taste kin o' nippy an' prickly, sort o' red-pepper 
like," observed Bill, winking solemnly in our direc- 
tion. "It oughta be hot stuff." 

"The insects make the finest kind o' food for 
'em," continued Varney, ignoring Bill's gentle 
raillery, and the incredulous smiles of the rest of 
us. "When the mosquito crop's extra good they 
get so fat they can't fly or run very far, and are 
easily caught. When they're lean they c'n run like 
a race horse. The bird that's in the picture weighed 
nearly seventy pounds when 'e was captured. He 
couldn't fly, an' 'e was chased into a cleft in a big 
rock and a net was slipped over 'im. The man that 
caught 'im was named Bungush Swamee, an 'e was 
a famous hunter. You see everybody has funny 
names in India." 

"What was that Bungush feller doin' up there 
with a net?" asked Pop Wilkins. "Did 'e s'pect 
to find fish?" 

"No, he took it up there for that very purpose. 
[184] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

He wanted to catch 'is birds alive, without injury, 
so 'e c'd sell 'em to the museums an' menageries. 
One year he caught seven an' shipped 'em to the 
Zoo in Bombay, an' that's how that Frenchman I 
just spoke of happened to try the eggs. They laid 
'em in the Zoo and the keeper o' the Zoo was a 
friend o' his. 

"You askin' about expecting to find fish up there 
reminds me that my friend said in 'is letter that 
another way they had o' catching the birds was to 
lay out set lines over the snow with big fish hooks 
on 'em. They fastened 'em to the jagged rocks 
an' left 'em out three or four days. They baited the 
hooks with frogs they'd brought up from down be- 
low. The frogs, of course, froze, but the turkeys 
would swallow 'em, an' when the frogs thawed out 
inside their crops they'd be stuck with the hooks. 
My friend wrote that one man got three on one line 
once an' had a terrible time pullin' 'em in over the 
rough ice and snow. They have some awful snow 
storms up in them mountains. Sometimes it snows 
for years without let'n up, an' the snow gits to be 
half a mile deep, so you see there's lots of un- 
certainties." 

At this point Bill removed his tattered hat and 
bowed reverently to Varney. 

Pop Wilkins remarked that he had often caught 
turkeys on fish lines, but his custom had been to 
troll for them through the open fields with spoon 
hooks, or use a pole and line with a casting bait 
when the birds were in the trees. Although he had 

[185] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

never tried set lines on snow, he had no doubt it 
would work. 

The subject was changed, and Sophy, after mak- 
ing her purchase, departed without looking in our 
direction. 

1 'That feller's the oiliest liar I ever heard," de- 
clared Bill, after Varney had transacted his business 
and gone, "an' e' tells int'restin' lies, too. It beats 
me how 'e does 'em. It's a sort o' natural gift, 
like singin' and' drawin' pitchers, an' I love to 
hear 'im throw it. Most liars 'ud stop when they 
seen it wasn't soakin' in an' people was git'n weak, 
but the Perfessor keeps right on 'till the goose flesh 
comes. Say, Pop, you an' me '11 have to ferment 
sump'n to drown 'im with when 'e blows 'round 'ere 
ag'in. Let's tell 'im one that'll put 'im out o' busi- 
ness for six months." 

"All right, Bill, you be thinkin' of it. You're 
sump'n of a past master yourself. I'm goin' home 
to rest. I got enough for one day." 

Varney chuckled quietly to himself as he crossed 
the bridge, for with his story he had woven a web 
of many meshes, and to it he hoped time would 
bring valuable spoil. He knew that he could rely 
on Sophy's cupidity and insatiable curiosity to 
' ' start something, ' ' and when he came again it was 
his intention to amplify and strengthen the ground 
work he had laid. 

A week later the firm by whom Josh was employed 
received a mysterious letter asking all about him. 
It came from the county seat, and was afterwards 

[186] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

ascertained to have been written by one of Sophy's 
acquaintances, undoubtedly at her instigation. This 
was a characteristic and favorite form of strategy 
with Sophy, and was quite recognizable to Josh 
when the letter was shown to him. The reply that 
he suggested was sent by his obliging employers. 
It contained the assurance that Mr. Varney was a 
gentleman of high repute. He had sold their goods 
for several years, and they considered his honesty 
and ability above question. 

In due course of time Sophy began to agitate the 
idea of getting "some of those wonderful white for- 
eign turkeys" that she had "accidentally heard 
about" into the neighborhood. She thought that 
the club ought to take the matter up. 

Bill assured her that "the Perfessor was handin' 
out bunk the day that things was bein' accident 'ly 
overheard inside, an' anything from 'im 'ud be 
'bout like what 'e put over at the Thanksgivin' 
shoot." 

This spirit of opposition only stimulated Sophy, 
and the subtle Josh had calculated on it to a nicety. 
He knew that the seed was now in fertile soil and 
he calmly awaited the harvest. 

In a month he came again, and incidentally men- 
tioned that his friend who wrote him about the 
Himalayan white turkeys had arrived in New York. 
He had started home with three birds, but two of 
them had been sickened by the roll of the ship on 
the way over, and had died just before getting into 
port. The one that survived the voyage was the 

[187] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

remarkable gobbler that was in the picture he had 
shown on his last trip to the store. 

"This bird '11 cause a lot of excitement in this 
country," he declared. "They call 'im Hyder AH, 
an' 'e's named after a famous Mohametan general 
that fought in Asia a good many years ago. This 
man Hyder Ali pretty nearly cleaned the English 
out of India once an ' they had a hot time getting 'im 
canned. There's been ships an' perfumery an' race 
horses an* brands o' cigars an' lots of other things 
named after 'im. He was one of the most famous 
men that ever lived in that part of the world." 

By degrees the imaginative and romantic Josh 
succeeded in creating an atmosphere of avid inter- 
est in everything relating to Hyder Ali, the mar- 
vellous fowl from beyond the briny seas, and he 
intended to intensify this atmosphere to the point 
of precipitation at the proper time. 

A couple of weeks later Varney told Posey that he 
had bought the Himalayan gobbler from his friend, 
but did not know what to do with him for a week or 
ten days, as the man that was going to take care 
of it for him was away. It was arranged that the 
gobbler was to be brought to the store and tempo- 
rarily installed in the chicken yard near the barn. 

On the following Saturday afternoon, when Josh 
well knew that there would be a full attendance at 
Posey's, that gay and debonair gentleman came in 
a light spring wagon. He was accompanied by a 
young man with a thick "O'Merican" accent, who 
drove the rig, and whom he introduced as Mr. Flah- 

[188] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

erty. Interest immediately centered on the big box, 
perforated with many auger holes, that stood in the 
wagon back of the seat. 

The vehicle was followed by the agitated and 
curious crowd, as it was driven back to the chicken 
yard. The box was tenderly removed and placed 
inside the wire netting enclosure by Varney and 
Flaherty. 

The appearance of Hyder Ali had been skilfully 
timed. The composite effect of Varney 's discourses 
on the subject of this wondrous bird had been to 
produce psychologic conditions that he considered 
quite perfect for his dark purposes. He knew that 
the halo of prestige and romance, that had been 
patiently made to glow around Hyder Ali, would 
become still brighter when that peerless bird burst 
dramatically upon the rustic stage. 

Out of the opened door of the box there came, with 
delicate mincing steps and regal mien, what, to that 
crowd, was almost a celestial vision. He was an 
enormous bird. With the exception of his eyes, 
he was pure white, even to his carunculated neck 
wattle and comb. The eyes were of a deep pink, 
and gleamed like iridescent opals in their snowy 
setting. The slender comb dangled and hung 
jauntily on one side, like the tassle on a Turkish 
fez, and it imparted a rakish oriental air. The head 
was crowned with a dainty little wisp of airy 
feathers that would have fluttered the heart of the 
most obdurate of hen turkeys. The shifting light 
revealed pearly half-tones in the snowy raiment. He 

[189] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

was immaculate and would hardly have seemed out 
of place on a pedestal. Many strange and queer 
things have stood on pedestals in this world, both 
in fact and fancy, and Hyder Ali would have ranked 
very far from the lower end of the scale. 

He paused on being released from what to him 
must have been a humiliating confinement, looked 
disdainfully at his surroundings, and nonchalantly 
acquired a fat green tomato worm that decorated a 
nearby leaf. 

He walked slowly, and with lordly dignity, about 
the enclosure, apparently conscious of the wonder 
and admiration he was attracting. He seemed like 
some rare exotic — entirely foreign to the strange 
environment into which an indiscriminate fate had 
thrust him. 

"Let joy be unconfined! We've got Hyder Ali!" 
shouted Bill, half sarcastically, as he joined the awe 
stricken crowd. He had arrived too late to witness 
the unloading, but he was impressed with the fact 
that Varney had, at least in some measure, "made 
good." However, the demon of distrust still lin- 
gered in his heart. He had never seen or heard of 
anything that looked like Hyder Ali before, but was 
disposed to restrain his enthusiasm and await fur- 
ther developments. 

Sophy Perkins came late in the afternoon and was 
in a highly flustered state. She spent a long time 
at the chicken yard with her wistful eyes riveted 
on the distinguished guest. To own that bird would 
crown her futile and disappointed life with bliss. 

[190] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

She longed for its possession as one who beseeches 
fate for the unattainable. 

Seemingly in response to her fervent gaze, Hyder 
Ali spread his tail feathers into vast fan-like forms 
over his downy back. His pink eyes glistened with 
alluring and changing beams from amid the fluffy 
white array of distended plumage, as he turned 
slowly round and round, posed, and strutted, quite 
human like, before Sophy's bewildered vision. 

His prolonged gobbles, as he majestically 
patrolled the chicken pen, had for her an ineffable 
musical charm. 

She had once read a syndicated story in a news- 
paper magazine supplement, in which reincarnation 
and transmigration of souls figured in a supernat- 
ural and flesh creepy plot. After she had heard 
Josh Varney's allusion to reincarnation in his first 
talk with us at the store, she had hunted it up and 
reread it carefully. In the woful and sobby tale 
a beautiful princess and her affinity discovered that 
they had once loved as shell-fish, and through count- 
less ages had periodically met in other strange 
forms, which did not happen to be identical until 
the time of the story, when they met in a phos- 
phorescent light in the dusty tomb of a Manchu 
ancestor. 

During her second day's visit to Hyder Ali a 
mysterious and indefinable thrill had crept into 
Sophy's sterile heart. She pondered much over the 
resistless fascination that the bird exercised over 
her, and suddenly became obsessed with the idea 

[191] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

that this was possibly the reincarnation of a soul 
mate that she might have had in some far off pre- 
vious existence, somewhere in the star swept aeons 
that were gone, that had drifted through the ages 
in various forms, until predestination had again 
brought them face to face. She had a hazy idea of 
the theory of reincarnation, but she had an instinct- 
ive feeling that, if there was anything of that sort, 
this was probably it, and a long lost affinity was be- 
fore her. 

The " loose wires in her upper story" that Rat 
Hyatt had mentioned at the turkey shoot began to 
rattle hopelessly on the subject of the white gobbler. 

Into her mind there came a desperate resolve to 
acquire that bird, by fair means or foul. All of her 
persistence, and every form of artifice and cunning 
of which she was capable would thenceforth be de- 
voted to that end. 

After Hyder Ali had sojourned a week in Posey's 
pen, attended with adoration, and fed with selected 
worms, corn meal mush, and other dainties by the 
faithful Sophy, Mr. Flaherty came with his little 
spring wagon and took him away. He said that 
the man who was to keep him for Mr. Varney had 
returned home, but he did not say where he lived. 

Thus was Hyder Ali dangled temptingly before 
the Turkey Club, and tantalizingly whisked from 
sight. Varney was eagerly questioned when he 
came again, but his manner was very reserved. He 
seemed willing to talk volubly on any subject but 
the gobbler, the only thing anybody wanted to hear 

[1921 ' 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

about. He finally said that he had paid three hun- 
dred dollars for the bird and intended to exhibit 
him at the county fairs in various parts of the state 
during the fall, charging a small admission fee to 
make it profitable. 

Sophy was anxious to know if he would sell the 
bird, and, after talking it all over with her, the re- 
luctant Josh consented to a " grand raffle" for the 
turkey, provided three hundred chances could be sold 
at one dollar each. He felt that exhibiting the bird 
around the country might be a good deal of a job, 
although he regarded it as a fine thing from a finan- 
cial point of view. If he was to part with Hyder 
Ali he would rather that he would remain with his 
friends along the river, as he was very fond of all 
of them, and they might talk over the county fair 
idea later. 

It was agreed that when all of the chances were 
sold the drawing should be held under the auspices 
of the Turkey Club in the yard back of Posey's 
store, where Hyder Ali was to be brought. 

Numbered tickets, corresponding to the names in 
Sophy's sales book were to be deposited in a hat. 
Josh Varney, as the owner of the turkey, was to 
hold the hat. Sophy was to be blindfolded, and to 
draw forth the tickets one by one, until the con- 
tents of the hat were exhausted. They were to be 
handed to somebody else who would call off the num- 
bers and cancel them in the book. The last ticket 
in the hat was to win Hyder Ali. 

The chances were all sold within a week, some 
[193] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

purchasers taking as many as a dozen. Just before 
the supply was gone Josh and his friend Flaherty 
each took ten and the book was declared closed. 

Sophy was only able to buy seven, but she hoped 
that they would be sufficient for her purpose. 

Every able bodied person, and some who were 
not, who lived within ten miles and could by any 
means get to the store, was there on the day of the 
drawing. 

Hyder Ali arrived in his perforated box and was 
reinstalled in the chicken yard, where he walked 
about in lonely majesty, while his destiny was in 
the balance — the cynosure of many anxious and 
covetous eyes. 

A platform had been improvised with four big 
drygoods boxes in the yard, high enough for every- 
body to see what was going on. Mr. Varney stood 
on it and announced the conditions. He acknowl- 
edged the receipt of the proceeds of the raffle, and 
stated that the bird now belonged to the winner. 

The three hundred numbered tickets were then 
produced by Sophy. She handed them to Varney 
to deposit in the ancient plug hat that Pop Wilkins 
had obligingly loaned for the occasion, in accord- 
ance with time honored custom. Pop, with the sun 
reflecting from his bald head, stood on the platform, 
adjusted his brass rimmed spectacles, and made 
ready to call off the cancellations. 

Varney ran through the tickets several times and 
counted them to see if they were all there. His 
numbers were from 281 to 290. He mixed the tickets 

[194] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

over thoroughly inside the hat with his hand, and 
the blindfolded Sophy began drawing. She had 
carefully bent all of her own tickets in such a way 
as to enable her to identify them by touch, and had 
no doubt that she would own Hyder Ali within the 
next twenty minutes. There was excited buying and 
selling, at big premiums, of numbers remaining in 
the hat as the contest narrowed down, and there 
were frequent delays in the drawing to accommo- 
date the speculators. Six of Sophy's tickets had 
come out. None of them were bent and cold chills 
raced up and down her spine. Her agile and ner- 
vous fingers had carefully avoided a well bent ticket 
near one side of the grimy interior of the hat. "When 
she drew out a flat ticket next to it, she learned to 
her horror that it was her last number. With a faint 
heart she reached for the other, hoping that there 
had been some error in her count, but the last ticket 
was number 294, and it belonged to Mr. Flaherty. 

It was evident to her that the wily Josh had dis- 
covered the bent tickets, and while he was handling 
them over inside the hat he had managed to 
straighten them all and bend Flaherty's. Whatever 
other artifice Josh might have had in reserve had 
he not discovered the bunch of bent tickets will 
always be a mystery, but he certainly had no inten- 
tion of leaving Hyder Ali in the river country. 

Sophy removed the handkerchief, under which she 
had found no difficulty in peeking during the draw- 
ing, and looked upon Josh. 

Human eyes have seldom glittered with the ven- 

[1951 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

omous and deadly glow that lie now saw in Sophy's 
orbs. Such eyes might have blazed through a laby- 
rinth in a jungle upon one who had seized a tiger 
cub. Backed by courage the look would have por- 
tended murder. 

Sophy at once realized the hopelessness of her 
position, for no specious protest was possible. She 
had encountered an adept in an art in which she 
was but a tyro. It was all over and she was com- 
pelled to smother her impotent wrath. 

To the crowd, ignorant of the little drama on the 
platform, everything had seemed entirely regular. 
None of them had ever had a ghost of a chance of 
getting the turkey, but they were good natured 
losers. Pop Wilkins carefully restored the old stove- 
pipe hat to his shining dome. While regretting that 
he had not won Hyder Ali and that that remark- 
able bird from foreign lands was not to remain in 
the community, he declared that there was now 
nothing to do but congratulate the winner. 

"That's what we done at the turkey shoot last 
year, ' ' remarked Bill in an undertone, as we watched 
the perforated box being loaded on to Flaherty's 
spring wagon. 

Varney tactfully refrained from assisting in the 
loading. "I hate to part with that bird," he de- 
clared, "but business is business an' there 'e 
goes!" 

Sophy continued to look upon him with a steely 
and viperous glare, but he did not appear to notice 
her. They each knew that the other thoroughly 

[196] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

understood the situation, and there were no ethics 
that were debatable. Sophy knew that Flaherty was 
a man of straw, and that she had been skilfully 
robbed of the fruits of her chicanery. Varney re- 
garded her discomfiture with the generous benevo- 
lence of a victor. 

Sophy believed that all moral logic, and every 
other kind of logic, entitled her to Hyder Ali. She 
considered that in addition to the loss of the bird, 
she had been swindled out of the seven dollars she 
had paid for her worthless chances. 

She justified her own dishonesty to herself by 
the conviction that she had worked hard enough for 
the club to have the turkey anyway, and as long as 
some ticket had to be left until the last, it might just 
as well be her's as anybody's. It was all a matter of 
chance anyway, and, as it turned out it would have 
been much better for everybody if Hyder Ali could 
have been kept in the neighborhood with her instead 
of being taken away. She considered that she had 
suffered a great injustice, and that a defenseless 
woman should be thus robbed and maltreated was 
to her the acme of outrage. 

Varney had his own rig with him and left for the 
county seat soon after Flaherty and his spring 
wagon had departed in an opposite direction. The 
precious pair was gone — with Hyder Ali, and two 
hundred and eighty dollars of tangible profits. 

A melodious gobble was faintly heard far away 
on the road while Flaherty was still in sight. It 
might have been a wail of sorrow and farewell. 

[197] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

"I s'pose," remarked Bill, "that Hyder Ali's 
yellill , fer help. He's prob'ly 'fraid them two jay 
birds '11 send 'im back to them Brummins an' that 
Bungspout Swammy fish net man in India, where 
'e'll git 'is crop chilled with them frozen frogs, but 
'e needn't worry. I didn't buy no chances fer I 
didn't think there 'd be any show fer a white man 
with Josh an' Sophy up on them boxes, an' they 
wasn't. I thought they was goin' to be sump'n doin' 
when I seen Sophy eyein' Josh. She looked like 
she wanted to squirt some lye at 'im. Sophy's got 
a bad eye. She c'n sour a pan o' milk that's twenty 
feet off by jest lookin' at it in a cert'n way. 

"Them kewpies 'ave finished the cookin' this time 
an' we're done good an' brown. I don't think 
they'll be 'round any more 'less Josh comes to sell 
us a striped elephant next year, an' if 'e does I 
'spose we'll buy it. I don't think we wanted that 
misquito fatted bird anyway. He didn't look to me 
like 'e was healthy.' ' 

Sophy was ill for a couple of weeks and visited 
the store but rarely during the rest of the summer. 

"She looks like she'd been licked," observed Rat 
Hyatt. "She don't seem to have no pep any more. 
I met 'er on the bridge the other day, an' when 1 
spoke to 'er she answered as nice an' polite as 
anybody, instead o' lookin' at me like I was a 
skunk, an' pass'n on the way she used to do." 

During the latter part of August Sophy chanced 
to see a copy of a weekly paper that was published 
in a small town about fifty miles away. In it was 

[198] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

an announcement of a ' ' grand raffle, " to be held the 
following week, "for a wonderful white turkey im- 
ported from Siberia at great expense, the like of 
which has never been seen or heard of in this 
country. ' ' 

The article went on to say that "this is a great 
event that is about to take place in our midst, and 
ye editor blushingly owns to the soft impeachment 
of having taken ten chances with his hard earned 
pelf. We hope to win the splendid prize, but if we 
fail we respectfully ask anybody who is in arrears 
on their subscription to please call at our holy edi- 
torial sanctum with some mazuma, for though ye 
ed. toys with the trailing skirts of fickle fortune, yet 
must he eat." 

Sophy kept her own counsel and prevailed on Pop 
Wilkins to lend her his horse and two seated buggy 
for a few days to enable her to visit a sick relative 
who lived some distance away. She was gone a 
week, and when she returned Hyder Ali was in the 
buggy. His beautiful head protruded inquiringly 
from the top of a gunny sack in which he was care- 
fully secured. Sophy drove home with her prize, 
returned the rig to the obliging Pop, and walked 
loftily into the store, on her way back, to make 
some purchases. 

She was a changed woman, and victory was on 
her brow. She greeted the loiterers about the store, 
but, as Posey expressed it, "she spoke from above." 

Naturally the neighborhood was in a ferment of 
curiosity. 

[199] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

"How'd you git 'im?" asked Bill pleasantly. 

"I caught 'im on a fish line," she replied grimly. 

Beyond this she refused any explanations and her 
attitude was regarded as the height of cruelty. She 
said it was nobody's business but her own, and no 
further light was thrown on the subject. 

Early in the fall a band of gipsies came and 
camped on a grassy glade in the woods not far from 
where Sophy lived. They remained several weeks. 
The men traded horses with the nearby farmers, 
and the women went about the neighborhood in their 
picturesque costumes, begged small articles, and told 
fortunes. 

One morning Sophy was horrified to find that 
Hyder Ali was gone. She at once suspected the 
gipsies, and rushed to their camp, but the Romany 
folk had departed. She found a long white feather 
on the ground that undoubtedly had come from her 
cherished bird. She at once enlisted all the help 
she could get. The assistance of the sheriff was 
invoked and the trail of the gipsies was taken by 
a large party. They were located about fifteen 
miles away. Thorough search revealed no trace of 
the missing property. The gipsies were confronted 
with the tell-tale feather, but denied all knowledge 
of it. There seemed to be nothing further to do and 
the matter was dropped by the sheriff. 

In November, just before the annual turkey shoot, 
Mr. Roscoe Plunkett, of the firm of Plunkett & Mott, 
whose goods Varney had sold for several years, 
came to Posey's store to check up their account. He 

[200] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

said that his firm had suffered considerable losses 
through the shady and sinuous methods of Varney, 
and that he was no longer with them. They had 
delved deep into his history before he came to them 
and found that he had a rancid past. It was 
checkered with a couple of jail confinements, but he 
had managed in each case to obtain his freedom 
after trial. He had been a champion rifle shot, and 
had given exhibitions of trick shooting in a wild 
west show for a year or two. Of late he had been 
mixed up with a man named Flaherty. They had 
found a farmer in the southern part of the state 
who had an albino turkey — one of those rare freaks 
of nature, due to deficient pigmentation. It was a 
beautiful gobbler of abnormal size. They bought 
the bird for twenty-five dollars, and, since that time 
they had been going about the country raffling it 
off. One of them had always won it. 

During the previous week a friend of Plunkett's, 
who was a commercial traveler, had written him 
that he had met Varney in Michigan, and that 
Flaherty and the white turkey were with him. 

This new light on the general cussedness and 
dark ways of Josh Varney came too late to be of 
any benefit to Sophy. She had gone to live with 
some relatives in a small town in Iowa, taking her 
illusions and her bitter hatreds with her. Her hen- 
pecked husband had mercifully been relieved of his 
earthly troubles, but this had not seemed to disturb 
her as much as her other afflictions. She had become 
completely disgusted with her surroundings, and had 

[201] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

sought new fields for her restless propensities. 

"It's too bad Josh don't know she's a widow," 
remarked Bill, "fer them two might git married 
now, if they wanted to." 

Bill labored long in lettering out the notice of 
the next annual turkey shoot, which he tacked up 
in the store. 

There was a full attendance when the day came. 
The weather was again pleasant, the blood letting 
was* satisfactory, and no untoward incident marred 
the joy of the occasion. 

When the shooting was over Bill pounded offi- 
cially on a barrel top and called the business meet- 
ing to order. 

"The first thing to be done at this meet'n is to 
'lect a new Chief Gobbler, fer this one has now re- 
signed. This chair has quit, an' now pays its part- 
ing respects to all the members. I say now that 
this chair has been blasphemed an' jumped on fer 
five years. Nothin' has ever been done right. 
Ev'rybody has cussed the chair right an' left, an* 
the chair has never peeped or said a word back. In 
quit'n this hon'able office this chair now makes 
answer to all them sore heads that's been criti- 
cize 'n it fer all these years, an* that answer is 
BAH!!!! 

"Now we'll perceed to nominations fer the chair's 
successor." 

A Voice: — "I nom'nate Mr. Bill Stiles fer the 
ensuin' year, an' I move it be made unimous." 

The Chair: — "Is there no other nominations?" 
[202] 



THE TURKEY CLUB 

Another Voice: — "I nom'nate Mr. Josh Varney, 
an' I move it be made unimous." (Chorus of cat 
calls.) 

A voice from the rear: — "I move that the chair 
stops smokin' when it's presidin' an' I move we 
adjourn!" 

The Chair: — "If that feller back there thinks 'e 
c'n run this meet'n better 'n it's bein' done, let 'im 
come' up in front. This chair's goin' to do its 
smokin' while it's alive instid o' wait'n 'till after- 
wards like some people. We gotta have some dig- 
nity about this thing, an' you fellers keep quiet! 
Now who makes any more nominations'?" 

After some further parliamentary bickering, the 
reluctant Bill was duly reelected, as usual. 

"Now," he continued, "havin' got this turr'ble 
weight offen our chests, the next business '11 be the 
'lection of a new boss, fer Sophy Perkins has left 
us. She's gone way off some'rs where the winds 
are blowin' an' she'll never come back. Mr. Posey 
has been suggested fer new secretary an' treas- 
urer. Does anybody nominate 'im?" 

"He'd be a good man to take in the money, but 
he'd make a hell of a secretary!" shouted somebody 
in the crowd. 

"Never mind, does somebody nominate 'im?" 
continued Bill. 

"How d'ye know Sophy '11 never come back?" de- 
manded another voice from the rear. 

"How do I know? How do I know anything? 
Shut up ! " replied the chair with asperity. 

[203] 



THE VANISHING BIVER 

Mr. Posey modestly declined his impending hon- 
ors, but was elected. 

"The next business," announced Bill, "is the re- 
port o' the chair on the case o' Mr. Josh Varney. 
Some o' you'll prob'ly faintly recollect of 'is havin' 
been among us some time ago." 

He then related the story of Plunkett, revealed the 
sins of Varney in all their sable hues and commented 
caustically on the soft headedness of the victims of 
that artful tactician. 

"All you fellers has been just as easy marks fer 
Josh as them ten turkeys in them boxes was a year 
ago. Some day we may ketch the perfessor, but 
knowin' 'im as I do, I don't b'lieve we will. He 
bruised a lot o' gold shekels out o' this bunch with 
that pale fowl, an' besides 'e made us feel bad." 

Mr. Eat Hyatt was now recognized by the chair. 

"Fer years," said Bat, "all of us has called 
Sophy Perkins 'the stinger,' an' she was a stinger, 
but I now move you, Mr. Chairman, that that title 
be hereby shifted offen 'er an' put on that pink 
eyed turkey man." 

The motion was unanimously carried and ordered 
spread upon the records that Sophy had left at the 
store. 

The meeting then adjourned. 

As we left I casually mentioned the fine weather 
we were having. 

"Yes, it's been a phenonomous year," replied 
Bill, thoughtfully. 

[204] 



VIII 
THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 



vin 

THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

NEAE one of the picturesque bends of the 
river, about half a mile above the begin- 
ning of the Big Marsh, was the home of 
Col. Jasper M. Peets, a doughty warrior, who had 
fought valiantly for the Lost Cause, and was spend- 
ing his declining years in a troubled twilight. 

The Colonel was an exotic. Perverse fates had 
transplanted him into a strange clime. All that 
anybody along the river knew of his history, up to 
the time of his arrival, had come from his own 
lips, and none of it was to his discredit. 

I had made his acquaintance at Posey's store, 
where he frequently came for supplies. Muskrat 
Hyatt cautioned me not to have anything to do 
with him. 

' ' That feller 's bad medicine, ' ' he declared. ' ' He 's 
worse 'n I am, an' that's sayin' a whole lot. If you 
ever go down to his place, you keep yer cash in yer 
shoes an' don't you take 'em off while you're 
there." 

The little farm, with its dilapidated house and 
barn, had come to the Colonel as an inheritance from 

[The author acknowledges his indebtedness to Mr. T. H. Ball, of 
Crown Point, Ind., for a portion of the material used in this story.] 

[207] 



THE VANISHING KIVER 

a distant relative whom he had never seen. The old 
pioneer, who had died there, had spent years of toil, 
patient and unremitting, in clearing the land and 
coaxing a precarious livelihood from the reluctant 
soil. He had left no will and the Colonel was the 
nearest surviving relative. 

The Colonel explained that this "fanm" and a 
"small passel of land down south" was all that he 
now possessed in the world. The "iron heel of the 
oppressah" had destroyed everything else. His 
"beautiful mansion on the Cumbe'land," and all his 
"niggahs," had been lost in the fury of the conflict. 
His "pussonal fo'tune" was a wreck. 

He was over seventy, and quite gray, but his erect 
military figure and splendid health somewhat belied 
his years. He was rather indolent in his movements, 
but as he sat in his hickory arm chair before the 
stone fire place, the lights that played over his storm 
beaten features pictured a warrior in repose. 

His heavy moustache was trained down in horse- 
shoe fashion on each side of his chin, and then 
twisted outward in a way that gave his face a re- 
doubtable expression when he frowned. He would 
often stand before the three-cornered piece of mir- 
ror attached to the outside of the house, combing and 
recombing the bellicose ornament, and observing it 
attentively, until he achieved particular curves at 
the ends that pleased his fancy. Apparently he af- 
fected a formidable facial aspect, becoming to one 
who had led charging men. 

Evidently he had somewhere received a fair edu- 
[208] 




Colonel Tasper M. Peets 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

cation, but outside of fiction, a field he had widely 
covered, he seemed to have little interest in books. 
His former environment had left a romantic polish, 
heightened by a florid imagination. His character 
had been moulded by the traditions of the south 
and they were the only religion he had. His vanity 
was delightful, and he had the heart of a child. 
Little gifts of tobacco and cigars made him happy 
for hours, and there was a subtle lovable quality 
about him that radiated even in his foibles. 

The old house stood on the rising ground, among 
tall elms and walnuts, about two hundred feet from 
the river. It had never been painted. Some of the 
clapboards and shingles were missing and others 
were loose. When the wind blew, stray currents 
permeated the structure, and there were mournful 
sounds between the walls — like the meanings of 
uneasy ghosts. 

The little log barn was decayed and tenantless, 
with the exception of a few scraggly hens and a 
vicious looking old game cock. The Colonel had 
bought him somewhere and annexed him to his es- 
tate — possibly as a concession to his early sporting 
instincts, or for sympathetic reasons. They were 
both warriors of better days. 

In an enclosure beyond the barn were half a 
dozen young razor backed pigs. These noisy shoats 
were a continual source of irritation to the Colonel. 
He declared that he would shoot the two sopranos 
and let the other pork loose if Seth Mussey, who 
looked after them, did not put muzzles on them or 

[209] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

find some other way of keeping them quiet at night. 
The Colonel did not do any "wo'k on the fahm." 
This was attended to by Mussey "on shares." 
Mussey lived a quarter of a mile away, and was the 
only neighbor. The "shares" were not very re- 
munerative, but, added to the Colonel's other small 
resources, they made existence possible. 

A narrow path led down to the river bank, where 
the Colonel kept his row boat and a small duck 
canoe which he propelled with a long paddle. The 
landing consisted of a couple of logs secured with 
stakes, and overlaid with planks. During high water 
in the spring the landing usually floated away and 
a new one was built when the freshets subsided. 
There was an air of general shiftlessness about the 
place that would have been depressing to anybody 
who did not know its eccentric proprietor. 

He spent much of his time fishing on the river 
in the summer and early fall until the ducks began 
to come in. During the game seasons he acted as 
host, guide and "pusher" for duck hunters, who 
sometimes spent weeks with him. They had rare 
sport on the big marsh, but were compelled to suffer 
some hardships at the Colonel's house. He did the 
cooking, or rather he heated the things that were 
eaten, and some of them baffled analysis. 

One of his guests once told of a "mud-hen hash" 
that the Colonel had compounded, in which there 
were many feathers, and of some "snapping turtle 
soup" where all was lost but the adjective. The 
complaining visitor had slept on the floor, with a 

[210] 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

bag of shelled corn for a pillow, and the unholy 
mess, with a cup of doubtful coffee, had been served 
for breakfast, but he soon got " broken in" and 
learned to put up with these things if he wanted to 
shoot ducks with the Colonel. 

The various dishes, when cooked for the first time, 
could usually be identified, but succeeding compo- 
sitions were culinary by-products, and afforded few 
clues to their component parts, except to a con- 
tinuous and very observant guest. 

I once ate some "fish chowder" with the Colonel, 
which, if it had been called almost anything else, 
would have been really very good. I never knew 
the ingredients, and doubt if its author could have 
reconstructed it, or have given an accurate account 
of its contents. Some one has aptly said, "if you 
want to be happy don't inquire into things," and the 
injunction seemed quite applicable to the Colonel's 
fare. 

There are many accidents — both happy and sad 
— in cookery. A wise cook is never free with 
recipes, for, in any art, formula dissipates mystery 
that is often essential to appreciation. Some cooks 
enter where angels fear to tread, and when the trip 
is successful the glory is properly theirs. Their 
task is thankless, and malediction is upon them when 
they fail. They are in contact with elemental in- 
stincts, and their occupation is perilous, for they 
are between an animal and its meat. 

One stormy night we sat before the crackling fire. 
The loose clapboards rattled outside and the big 

[211] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

trees were grumbling in the wind. Water dripped 
from the leaky roof and little streams crept across 
the floor. 

I had come down the river in a small rowboat, 
and intended to spend a week fishing for bass in 
the stream and sketching in the big marsh. 

"You must pa 'don the appeahance of things 
'round heah," remarked the Colonel. "Theah is a 
lot of fixin' up to be done, and the weatheh has 
been so pleasant lately that that infe'nal Mussey 
has had to wo'k out doahs. If this weatheh stays 
bad he will come in heah an* straighten things up." 

He had queer notions regarding work. There 
were some things that he would do diligently, and 
others he considered beneath his dignity. The line 
of demarcation was confused, and I was never quite 
able to be certain of it. He cooked and partially 
washed the dishes, but never swept the floors, or 
fed the chickens and shoats at the barn. He never 
repaired anything except under urgent necessity, 
and his idea of order was not to disturb anything 
after he had let go of it. 

"You may be interested to know, suh, that I have 
been occupying my spaiah time writing my mem- 
oahs, ' ' he continued. ' ' I have collected the scattehed 
reco'ds of my careah. I have no descendants, an' 
I may say to you confidentially, as one gentleman 
to anotheh, that I do not expect any, suh, so theah 
will be nobody to take pride in my literary wo'k 
afteh I am gone, but the gene'l public, but as a paht 

[212] 



THE PKEDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

of the history of the south, durin' its period of great 
trial, I think my memoahs would be valuable. 

"I am going to put my memoahs in the fawm 
of a novel, suh, an' I have had to mix up a lot of 
otheh people in it who ah, to some extent, fictitious, 
so my book will be a combination of fact and 
romance. I have thought it all oveh. I am of the 
opinion that a book to be populah must be a story. 
It must have a plot, and somebody must get married 
on the last page. I am writing such a story, suh, 
and am weaving the main incidents of my careah 
into the plot. In this way I will get my history 
befoah a great many people who nevah read mem- 
oahs. I will gild what is the real pill, so to speak, 
by dipping it into the bright hued watehs of 
romance. 

"I am having a great deal of trouble with my 
plot, suh. Theah is a fellah in it by the name of 
Puddington Calkins. I want to kill this cussed 
Calkins, but if I kill 'im I will have nobody to marry 
to the mystehious veiled lady that I see in the dim 
distance. She is gliding towa'd the web of my plot, 
but I do not yet know whetheh she comes upon an 
errand of vengeance, or to demand justice foh her 
child. This veiled lady is pe'fumed with tube rose, 
suh, and I hate to leave her out, foh, with the ex- 
ception of bou'bon, tube rose is my favorite odeh, 
and that reminds me, suh — pahdon me just one 
moment. ' ' 

The Colonel arose and went to the cupboard. He 
brought forth a tall bottle, poured a liberal dose 

[213] 



THE VANISHING EWER 

into a tin cup, and swallowed it with impressive 
solemnity. 

"That bou'bon came fo'm Tennessee. It was 
sent to me by an old friend who was related to 
Jedge Benton of Nashville. When the Jedge died 
he had two bar 'Is of this noble fluid in his cellah, 
and one of them was left to my friend in the Jedge 's 
will. It had been twenty-foah yeahs in the wood, 
suh. I was fo'tunate enough to be presented with 
some of that wonde'ful whiskey. I am sorry, suh, 
that you do not indulge, foh you ah missin' some- 
thing that puts spangles on a sad life, suh ! 

"Most people drink whiskey foh its alcohol, and 
such people, suh, should pat'onize a drug stoah. A 
gentleman drinks it foh its flavah, and that reminds 
me, suh, that birdy cannot fly with one wing, an' 
if you'll pahdon me I'll take anotheh." 

After replacing what was left of the "bou'bon," 
the Colonel stuffed some flagrant tobacco into a 
much darkened cob pipe, contemplated the ascend- 
ing wreaths for a while, and reverted to his novel. 

"The plot of that story is a pe'plexity to me, suh. 
I think of things to put in it when I am out on the 
rivah, and when I get back I fo'get what they ah. 
I am going to get some moah papeh and write the 
whole thing oveh. Maybe I will kill that infe'nal 
Pud Calkins and I will myself marry that female 
whose face is concealed. Somebody must marry her 
or she will be left without suppo 't at the end of the 
book. People will nevah buy my memoahs. They 

[214] 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

will look in the back, and if theah is no wedding 
theah, they will cast the volume aside. 

1 ' That Pud Calkins is much on my mind, suh. He 
is a predicament. He wakes me f 'om my slumbehs, 
an' sits beside me at my humble meals. He has 
dammed up the flow of my fancy in my novel, suh. 
I have nevah read a novel that had anything like 
him in it. He is a damned nuisance, suh, and he 
has got to go. 

' 'The next time you come down I would like to 
read to you what I have written. It is too much 
mixed up now, but I will have it all in o'deh when 
you come again. And anotheh thing that bothehs 
me is my chestnut filly that I rode durin' the wah. 
I have got to have her in the story. I rode her 
through battle smoke and oveh fields of ca'nage. 
I was at the head of my men, suh, an' ev'ry fall of 
her hoofs was on dead Yankees that fell befoah 
ouah onslaught. It would break my heaht if Pud 
Calkins should evah ride that hawss, even in a story, 
and yet Pud Calkins was on the field where I fell 
covehed with wounds, and he rode some hawss home 
to tell the tale, and if he had some otheh hawss, I 
would have to leave my filly out, foh only one live 
hawss was left at the end of that cha'ge, and that 
was the one I fell f'om, an' Great Gawd, man, I 
couldn 't kill my filly ! 

' ' Of co 'se my hawss will succumb in my memoahs 
to the immutable laws of natcha, but that must ap- 
peah as the reco'd of the actual fact, afteh the wah 
was oveh. She will not die by my hand, even in 

[215] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

fiction — no, suh ! I will kill Pud Calkins a thousand 
times first, suh! 

1 'The prepahation of all this written matteh has 
been a great labah to me, but it has occupied many 
houahs that would othe'wise be unbeahable in this 
Gawd fo'saken country. I sit heah by my fiah and 
wo'k with my pen, but this Pud Calkins is always 
by my side, suh." 

Barring a few unavoidable discomforts, I spent 
a very pleasant week with the Colonel. The fishing 
had been good, and there was a world of interest 
and joy in the stretches of the great marsh, teem- 
ing with wild life, and filled with the gentle melo- 
dies of hidden waters. 

I paid mine host his modest bill, bade him good 
bye at the landing, rowed up stream, and, after 
spending a day with Tipton Posey at Bundy's 
Bridge, left the river country. 

It was six months before I returned. I sought 
the Colonel and found him much changed. A trou- 
ble had come upon him. His eye had lost its lustre, 
he had an air of listlessness and preoccupation, and 
he looked older. 

It seemed that there had been great excitement 
in the county after my departure, and the Colonel 
had been the storm center. 

"When we had finished our simple evening meal, 
and had lighted our pipes before the fire, the Colo- 
nel handed me a copy of The Index, the weekly pa- 
per, published at the county seat. Its date was 
about four months old. 

[216] 



THE PKEDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

"I would like to have you read that, suh, and then 
I will hand you anotheh." 

On the front page were some glaring headlines: 
THE BURGLARY!!!— THE EXPLOSION!!!— 
THE PURSUIT ! ! ! I read the account with deep 
interest, which was as follows: 

"On Monday morning of June 10th a crowd as- 
sembled in front of the County Treasurer's office at 
the Court House, amid very unusual circumstances. 
Nearly seven thousand dollars were known to have 
been in the safe Saturday night, and now as the 
anxious citizens crowded through the door, they 
saw a ruined open safe, and abundant evidences of 
a fearful explosion. A steel drill, some files, and 
an empty can that had probably contained the ex- 
plosive compound, were scattered about on the 
floor. The rugs were in a pile near the safe, where 
they had probably been used to muffle the explosion. 
The money was gone. 

"It was learned that a stranger of singular ap- 
pearance, and marked individualities, with a gray 
coat, a heavy gray moustache and long chin whis- 
kers, who entered the town last Friday, and had 
been observed by many of the citizens during Fri- 
day and Saturday, had deposited at the Treasurer's 
office, for safe keeping, a box represented to con- 
tain valuables. This box, made of tin, some eight 
inches in length and five in width, was deposited 
on Friday, and taken out on Saturday morning. It 
was again deposited on Saturday afternoon, to be 
called for on Monday morning. 

[217] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

"The county treasurer, the Hon. Truman W. 
Pettibone, had gone fishing on Thursday and ex- 
pected to remain away until Tuesday, as is his cus- 
tom during the summer months. 

"The mysterious stranger was waited on by Mr. 
J. Milton Tuttle, the courteous and well-known 
clerk in the treasurer's office. Mr. Tuttle 's charm- 
ing daughter has just returned from a visit to her 
aunt in Oak Grove township — but we digress. J. 
Milton Tuttle had no suspicions, and retired at eve- 
ning to his home and his interesting family. 

"The stranger was thought by several citizens to 
have taken the evening train, but was seen lurking 
around town, with a slouch hat pulled well down 
over his eyes, at a late hour Saturday night. He 
entered the Busy Bee Buffet at eleven o'clock and 
was served by Mr. Oscar Sheets, the gentlemanly 
bartender. He immediately departed. It is sup- 
posed that he spent the night in some barn. 

"It was ascertained that the tall and singular 
looking man, in the gray coat, who appeared to be 
disguised, was seen on Sunday morning to enter the 
front door of the Court House. This door, as is 
well known, is usually left open on Sunday for the 
convenience of Sunday callers who wish to read the 
legal notices on the bulletin board in the hallway. 

"Miss Anastasia Simpson, an unmarried lady, 
living near the Court House, noticed particularly 
that the stranger was very distinguished looking. 
She watched from her window for his reappearance, 
which did not take place until three in the afternoon, 

[218] 




Miss Anastasia Simpson 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

when lie departed seemingly in a state of great per- 
turbation and excitement. 

"It was ascertained that Mr. "Wellington Peters, 
proprietor of the prominent and well known low 
priced hardware store bearing his name, and whose 
business is advertised in our columns, while stand- 
ing on the corner talking with a traveling man near 
the hotel, heard a dull booming sound from the di- 
rection of the court house, at about 2 :45 P. M., but 
thinking that it was boys making some kind of a 
racket, he paid no attention to it. Several other 
prominent and well known citizens heard the same 
sound at the same hour. 

"The tall and mysterious stranger was seen by 
Miss Simpson to walk south after leaving the court 
house. She went to another window to further ob- 
serve him, but he had disappeared. 

"The little tin box which the artful and design- 
ing robber had left 'for safe keeping ' with J. Mil- 
ton Tuttle, and which he locked up in the safe, was 
opened and found to contain nothing but a bag of 
sand. 

"It was evident to all that the tin box was a sub- 
terfuge. It was used as an excuse to visit and in- 
spect the 'lay of the land' in the office of the treas- 
urer of our county. 

"About noon, on Monday, a posse was formed by 
the Hon. Cyrus Butts, our gentlemanly and efficient 
sheriff. The posse, consisting of three prominent 
and well known citizens, Oliver K. Gardner, Silas 
B. Kendall and Elmer Dinwiddle, accompanied by 

[219] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

the sheriff, made a circuit of the town. They as- 
certained that the mysterious stranger had stopped 
at the pleasant little home of Mr. Mike Carney, the 
genial and well known butcher of our town, and 
asked for a drink of water, which was given him. 
He had then taken a southerly direction along the 
section line road. The posse procured Toppington 
Smith's mottled blood hound and put the intelligent 
animal on the trail of the fleeing burglar. The pur- 
suit continued for about twelve miles. The fugitive 
was evidently making a bee line along the section 
road for the river marshes. A team was met on 
the road, with a load of baled hay, and impressed 
into service. All of the bales but two were un- 
loaded and left by the roadside. The two bales were 
retained on the wagon for use as a barricade in case 
of a revolver battle with the burglar. 

" Drivers of teams, met along the route, reported 
seeing a man enter the woods before they met him, 
and go back into the road a long ways behind 
them after they had passed. The variations in the 
course taken by the hound confirmed this. 

"About ten o'clock at night there was a full moon. 
The trail left the road and led into some thick un- 
derbrush, near a small slough. Some smoke issued 
from the brush, where the fugitive had evidently 
built a fire and expected to spend the night. The 
place was surrounded and the posse cautiously ad- 
vanced, but the burglar was gone. It was thought 
that the cunning malefactor had got wind of his 
pursuers, that he had turned aside and lighted this 

[220] 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

fire in the brush with a view of delaying and baf- 
fling those behind him with artful strategy. 

"The hound left the brush, and a few minutes 
later a tall figure, with a light gray coat, was seen 
a few hundred yards away on a bare ridge in the 
moonlight. It was unquestionably the fugitive and 
the hound was with him. The posse opened fire with 
revolvers, but at such a distance it was futile. The 
man and the dog disappeared over the ridge into 
the woods. The burglar had escaped, and the»dog 
had evidently joined forces with him. 

"Further pursuit that night was considered hope- 
less. The posse slept at a farm house and resumed 
the search Tuesday morning. They found the dog 
tied to a tree near the edge of the big marsh, there 
were tracks in the soft mud at the margin of the 
slough, and an old boat belonging to a farmer in 
the vicinity was gone. There were marks in the 
mud showing where the boat had been shoved out to 
the water. 

"The pursuit was abandoned and the posse re- 
turned home. A full description of the robber was 
sent broadcast, and it is thought that his capture is 
only a matter of time. 

"Up to the hour of going to press there are no 
further particulars to record, but we hope that be- 
fore our next issue, justice will triumph, and the 
burglar with his ill gotten booty will be within its 
grasp." 

"And now, suh, will you please cast youah eye 
[221] 



THE VANISHING RIVEE 

oveh this reco'd of infamy," requested the Colonel, 
as he handed me a later copy of the same paper. 

The next account was headed: 

"ARRESTED!!! — PRELIMINARY 
HEARING ! ! !— HABEAS CORPUS ! ! ! " 
and it read as follows: 

"We are able to announce that the crafty and re- 
sourceful robber of the county treasurer's office, who 
so successfully eluded the grasp of his pursuers, 
and made good his retreat into the river marshes, 
has probably been apprehended. 

"The evidence seems to indicate that one Col. 
Peets, who lives on a small farm on the river, above 
the marsh, is the culprit. 

"He was captured there by the sheriff, the day 
after our last week's issue was in the hands of the 
public. He offered no resistance. The information 
that led to his capture was received from Mr. Tip- 
ton Posey who keeps the well known general store 
near Bundy's Bridge. Mr. Posey stated that the 
description of the robber, printed in this paper, ex- 
actly fitted Col. Peets, with the exception of the chin 
whiskers, which he thought were false. 

"This paper is invariably modest and unassum- 
ing. It vaunteth not itself, but we may say, with- 
out undue self glorification, that it was the thor- 
oughness of the journalistic work of this paper that 
made the description of the robber available, and 
that this capture is therefore exclusively due to the 
enterprise of The Index. Our circulation covers the 
entire county. Our advertising rates will be found 

[222] 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

on another page. Our subscription rates are two 
dollars a year, cash, or two fifty in produce — strictly 
in advance. 

"Col. Peets claims to be an ex-officer in the Rebel 
Army. He bears a bad reputation along the river, 
and is said to be a man of immoral character. 

"The prisoner was securely lodged in the county 
jail, and, after the usual legal forms, he was brought 
before the Justice of the Peace for preliminary 
hearing. 

"When the morning of the examination came, the 
court was thronged as it never has been before. The 
ladies crowded the room as they had never done at 
any court during our existence as a county, while 
the trial progressed, manifesting a strange interest, 
which has never been exhibited till now, for or 
against any prisoner. And yet not so strange, for 
a remarkable prisoner appeared before them. He 
was tall, strongly built, with a heavy moustache, 
and pale — as though just recovering from an ill- 
ness — marked in his individualities, a man of mar- 
tial bearing, whom one would expect to recognize 
among ten thousand. , 

"Every female eye was uninterruptedly focussed 
on this striking looking man during the entire hear- 
ing. He was claimed to be the same stranger who 
had blown open the safe and abstracted the seven 
thousand dollars of the county's money. The loss 
will of course have to be made good by the 
treasurer or his bondsmen, if the plunder is not 
recovered from the thief, and much sympathy is felt 

[223] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

for the Hon. Truman W. Pettibone, who has long 
borne an enviable and unsullied reputation in our 
midst. 

''Several of the ladies present were to appear 
among the witnesses in behalf of the state and for 
the defense. The question under consideration was 
the identity of this tall mysterious looking prisoner 
and that tall disguised stranger who was unques- 
tionably responsible before the law for the astound- 
ing burglary. 

"The counsel for the state was the Hon. John 
Wesley Watts, our brilliant and alert county attor- 
ney. The prisoner was represented by W. St. John 
Hopkins, whose very name smacks of irreverence 
for the Holy Writ. He is a young aspiring sprig 
of the law who has recently come into our midst. 

"It seems that this man Hopkins, who parts both 
his name and his hair in the middle, volunteered to 
defend the prisoner without compensation, prob- 
ably for the purpose of showing off his talents. The 
prisoner was without counsel, and claimed to have 
no funds with which to hire one. They seemed to 
be suspiciously good friends in court. Whether or 
not a part of the loot from the exploded safe has 
covertly changed hands in payment for certain legal 
services during the past few days, it is not within 
the province of this paper to determine, or even 
hint. 

"The examination continued during Wednesday 
and Thursday, excellent order prevailing in the 
court room. Many citizens gave strong testimony 

[224] 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

both for and against the prisoner. The public were 
deeply interested in the solution of the question, 
and there were strong and conflicting opinions as 
to the identity of the prisoner in the minds of all 
present. The progress of the examination, as nu- 
merous witnesses were examined who had seen the 
prowling and disguised stranger, and who now saw 
the prisoner, brought distinctly to notice the great 
difference which exists in the observing power of 
different individuals. Many thought that if the 
prisoner had on a gray coat, and had a long chin 
beard, in addition to his moustache, they could ab- 
solutely swear to his identity. Others thought that 
the stranger had worn false whiskers and had par- 
ticularly noticed it at the time. 

"J. Milton Tuttle did not think that the chin 
whiskers were false, or that the prisoner was the 
man who left the tin box for safe keeping. He was 
quite positive that he would recognize the man if he 
ever saw him again. 

"Miss Anastasia Simpson, the unmarried lady, 
whose eyes were glued on the mystic stranger in 
the vicinity of the court house, and whose eyes were 
glued on the prisoner during the entire course of 
the trial, swore absolutely that he was not the same 
man. Possibly the reasons that prompted such posi- 
tive testimony may be best known to herself. 

"The prisoner, under the whispered advice of 
young Hopkins, declined to go upon the stand, which 
in itself, in the opinion of most of those present, 
was conclusive evidence of guilt. 

[225] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

' ' The state 's attorney made an able and scholarly 
address to the court, and presented a masterly re- 
view of the evidence. 

"Hopkins contented himself with claiming that 
no evidence had been adduced to justify the court 
in holding his client. No false whiskers or gray 
coat had been produced, and no witness had posi- 
tively sworn to the prisoner's identity. On the 
contrary, the only witness who had conversed with 
the alleged robber, Mr. J. Milton Tuttle, had failed 
to connect him with the crime, and Miss Simpson, 
who had long and carefully observed both men, had 
declared under her solemn oath that they were not 
the same. 

"He claimed that the cord that held his client 
was a rope of sand, and had the effrontery to com- 
ment sarcastically on the account of the pursuit of 
the flying burglar that appeared exclusively in our 
last week's issue. He indulged in sardonic levity at 
the expense of the public-spirited posse, and re- 
marked that it was queer that its dog had shown a 
preference for the society of an alleged thief. He 
suggested that the two bales of hay, that were re- 
tained on the pursuit wagon, were better adapted 
for food for the posse than for a barricade. 

"The outburst of indecent laughter that greeted 
this impudent sally was promptly suppressed by the 
court, who threatened to clear the room if anything 
of the kind was repeated. The court sternly re- 
buked the offending attorney, and cautioned him to 

[226] 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

confine his remarks strictly to the merits of the 
case before the court. 

" Hopkins apologized to the court and claimed 
that humor was a malady of his early youth and 
that he had never been entirely cured. 

"The court retired to its library and took the 
case under advisement for an hour, during which 
time the crowd waited in anxious suspense. When 
the court returned it held Col. Peets to the Circuit 
Court — placing his recognizance at three thousand 
dollars, in default of which the prisoner was re- 
manded to the custody of the sheriff. 

"Much satisfaction was expressed at the decision 
of the court. Judge Mark W. Giddings, our able 
and learned Justice of the Peace, is a man of lofty 
attainments and an ornament to the bench. He has 
one of the finest law libraries in the county. He is 
of fine old New England stock, his ancestors having 
come over in the Mayflower. He is one of the oldest 
and most valued subscribers to this newspaper. 

"The press forms of this issue of our paper were 
held until proceedings in this case were disposed of, 
that the inchoate attorney representing the prisoner, 
began before the court now in session at the court 
house. 

"He asked for a writ of habeas corpus, and his 
client has been turned loose on the community! 

"We may say, that while it may be that no jury 
would have convicted this man Peets, who admits 
that he was once an enemy of his country, and while 
the testimony was strongly conflicting, the opinion 

[227] 



THE VANISHING KIVER 

is strong in this community that the honorable Jus- 
tice of the Peace rendered a perfectly just decision. 

"The opinions of this journal have always been 
impartial, and, under the circumstances it is far be 
it from us to express one, but not to mention any 
names, there is a certain fresh young lawyer in 
this town who has a tendency to be a smarty, and 
a cute Aleck, and to butt in on things that do not 
concern him. 

"It may be to his interest to lay a little lower. 
A word to the wise is sufficient. 

"In addition to this, there is a certain alien resi- 
dent in this county, of military pretensions, who 
lives by the sobbing waters of a certain river — and 
again we do not mention names — who had better not 
be caught wearing false whiskers when he visits this 
town. ' ' 

"And now," said the Colonel, with a patronizing 
wave of his hand after he had given me a still later 
copy of the paper, "I desiah you to look at this ac- 
count of the sequel of this distressing affaiah." 

On the editorial page I read : 

"A PUBLIC OUTRAGE!!! 

"It is far from the desire of this journal to dis- 
cuss the personal interests or affairs of its editor 
and proprietor. The Index, as the public well 
knows, has ever been the fearless advocate of fair 
play for every citizen, and for every human being, 
however humble, before the law. Its motives have 
always been above reproach. Notwithstanding the 
fact that it is the county's greatest newspaper — 

[228] 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

unselfishly devoted to the public interest — it never 
blows its own horn. It rarely mentions itself in 
its own columns. It scorns to publish matter in its 
own interest, but the time has come when its clarion 
voice must be raised to such a pitch that it may be 
heard throughout the length and breadth of the 
county, so that the public conscience may be awak- 
ened, and forever make impossible a repetition of 
such an outrage as occurred in front of the post 
office on last Saturday afternoon. 

"As is well known by all, the editor of this paper, 
who is also its proprietor, was publicly attacked by 
Col. Peets, the scoundrel and erstwhile prisoner at 
the bar of justice, who figured so prominently and 
so exclusively in the affair of the robbery of the 
safe in the county treasurer's office some weeks ago. 

"A handful of our whiskers was seized and 
twisted away by this vile miscreant, with the sup- 
posedly funny remark that he wanted them for a 
disguise. 

"We were forced to our knees on the dirty side- 
walk and commanded to apologize for certain state- 
ments that have appeared in our paper. 

"We were belabored with a rawhide whip and 
kicked into the gutter by this burly old brute. 

"As humiliating as these things are it is neces- 
sary to mention them in order to properly lay be- 
fore the public the frightful enormity of the out- 
rage. 

"It is, and always has been the policy of this pa- 
per, to hew to the line and let the chips fall where 

[229] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

they may. The Index thinks before it strikes, and 
it never retracts. 

''If editors are to be publicly assaulted — if their 
persons are not sacred — if the freedom of the press 
is to be trammelled and muzzled by supposed pri- 
vate rights of individuals, and their likes and dis- 
likes — if publishers are to be beaten up or beaten 
down with impunity, or with rawhide whips, and 
are to be coerced into cowardly silence by fear 
of personal violence — then our republic, with its 
vaunted ideals, is a stupendous failure. 

"Far be it from us to complain, or put forth our 
private wrongs, but we consider that we have been 
a martyr to the lawlessness of this community, and 
to the fearless and outspoken attitude of our paper. 

"An attack upon the person of the editor of a 
newspaper is an attack upon the sacred foundations 
of human liberty. 

"The public will be glad to know that the ex- 
ecrable villain and ruffian, who assaulted us, is now 
immured in the county jail, where he was sent by 
that wise and upright Justice of the Peace, the Hon. 
Mark W. Giddings. 

"It is to be devoutly hoped that when the term 
of his just imprisonment expires, his presence in 
the county will be no longer tolerated. 

"For the miserable cowards and loafers who wit- 
nessed the premeditated violence upon us in front 
of the post office, and did not interfere, this paper 
has the most withering contempt. Their craven 

[230] 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

names are known, and this journal will remember 
them. 

"To Constable Hawkins, who arrested the assail- 
ant, this paper — on behalf of the public — extends its 
thanks. Constable Hawkins is an officer of whom 
our town may well be proud. We wish him a long 
life of health and happiness. We may mention, 
parenthetically, that Constable Hawkins and his 
charming wife Sundayed with us two weeks ago and 
a delightful time was had by one and all. 

"To the misguided and mentally unbalanced fe- 
males, who are daily sending flowers and sundry 
cooked dainties to the county jail, this paper has 
nothing to say. With the exception of one of them, 
who was a witness at the trial, and who shall here 
be nameless, they all have male relatives whose duty 
is plain. The names of these women are known and 
will be preserved in the archives of this paper for 
future reference. There are certain rumors being 
whispered about on our streets, that, from high mo- 
tives of public policy, will not find a place on our 
columns until later. 

"The sheriff is being quietly and severely criti- 
cized by many citizens, whose good opinion is worth 
something to him at election time, for permitting 
these indulgences to a criminal in his charge. 

"We have always given our unqualified support 
to Sheriff Butts when he has been a candidate, and 
we hope that we will not be compelled to change our 
opinion regarding his fitness for the office. He will 

[231] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

do well to ponder. The eye of The Index is upon 
him. 

1 ' The editor of this paper is pleased to announce, 
to relieve the public mind, that we are recovering 
from our undeserved injuries, and will soon be our- 
selves again. We feel deeply indebted to Dr. Ignace 
Stitt for the wonderful professional skill with which 
he attended us. The Doctor's practice is increasing 
rapidly, and he is now the foremost physician in our 
county. His office is over Ed Bang's drug store, and 
he is among the most valued subscribers of this 
paper. 

' 'We and our wife thank our kind friends who 
have sent us watermelons, and other delicacies, dur- 
ing our confinement. 

"Asa stern challenger of injustice, and an alert 
defender of the right, The Index will ever, as in the 
past, be in the forefront. Its battle axe will gleam 
in the turmoil of the conflict, and on it will shine 
our mottos — Sic Semper Tyranus, and Honi soit qui 
nial y pense." 

I laid the paper down with the conviction that if 
the Colonel's life previous to his arrival in the river 
country had been as rapid as he had been living it 
since he came, his "memoahs" would be quite a 
large volume. 

"Now, sun," said he, "I want to relate to you 
the inside history of that robbery, suh. I want to 
show you how it is possible foh a puffectly inno- 
cent man, with puffectly good intentions, to get into 

[232] 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

a predicament in this Gawd fo' saken no 'the 'n coun- 
try. 

"I was of co'se compelled, much against my wish, 
to hawss-whip the editah of that rotten sheet. He 
was not a gentleman and I could not challenge him, 
suh, and it was matteh of pussonal honah. The facts 
ah substantially as he states in that sizzling angel 
song that you have just read. 

"I want to say, suh, that I nevah spent a moah 
pleasant thi'ty days in my life than I spent in that 
jail. I was theah in a good cause, and I am sorry 
it was not sixty days. The sheriff treated me with 
puffect cou'tesy, and I was called on and congratu- 
lated by many people who had strong private opin- 
ions of that editah. 

" Those noble women made my incahceration a 
pleasuah, and I may say, suh, without vanity, that 
I have nevah been oblivious or insensible to the ef- 
fect that I have always had upon ladies. Soft and 
beseeching eyes have been cast upon me all my life, 
suh. I discovered in that jail that iron bars can- 
not destroy beautiful visions. 

"I was provided with papeh, and I was enabled 
to do a great deal of wo'k on my memoahs, and I 
have included in them the events of the past few 
months, but what I sta'ted to tell you was the un- 
revealed facts of that robbery, suh. 

"In odeh that you may get a clear idea of just 
what happened, I must take you back to the awful 
days of ouah wah. Theah was a high bo'n southe'n 
gentleman in my regiment, suh, named Majah Speed. 

[233] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

He came f 'om one of the best families in Tennessee. 
Theah was a most unfo'tunate pussonal resemblance 
between us, and even when we were togetheh, ouah 
best friends could ha'dly tell us apaht. In o'deh not 
to continue to embarrass ouah friends, we drew 
straws to decide who should raise a chin bea'd in 
addition to his moustache. The Majah lost, and I 
still have my military moustache without any hawss- 
tail whiskehs to spoil it. I may say, suh, that I have 
no doubt that my moustache had its effect in making 
my stay at the jail delightful. 

"The Majah and I have always kept ouah corre- 
spondence up. He came to see me just befoah that 
explosion at the cou't house. He was in that town 
when it took place, and he was the man who was 
pussued by that posse and that damn dawg, whose 
favah he won with a piece of bologna sausage. 

"Afteh the Majah entered the ma'sh he came di- 
rectly to my house and explained the whole affaiah. 
We sunk the boat he came in with some stones in 
the rivah. 

"That infe'nal Milt Tuttle, who was the cle'k in 
the treasurer's office, was the scoundrel that got the 
money. His folks came f'om Tennessee, and he 
knew the Majah. He was aweah that the Majah 's 
circumstances weah much reduced, and that he had 
lost what he had left in the wo 'Id at ca'ds. He knew 
that the Majah would do almost anything to retrieve 
his fo 'tunes. The love of money was always the 
trouble with the Majah, but we all have to be toler- 
ant of the weaknesses of ouah friends, suh. 

[234] 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

"That scoundrel Milt Tuttle sent money to Ten- 
nessee foh my friend the Majah to come up heah. 
He did not know me, or that I knew the Majah. 
When the Majah came no'th he came directly to see 
me and spent several days at my place. We went 
down on the ma'sh togetheh. He told me about 
Milt Tuttle and said he would come back and pay 
me a longeh visit a little lateh. 

"My friend Majah Speed went to the county seat, 
and the da'k scoundrelly plan of Milt Tuttle was 
laid befoah him. In a moment of weakness the 
Majah fell, and consented to blow open that safe 
and divide what he found with Milt Tuttle. The 
tools and the explosive compound were hidden in 
the office by Milt Tuttle, and during several visits 
he explained to the Majah how he was to proceed. 
He gave him a duplicate key to the side entrance of 
the office around the end of the hall, and a map of 
the route he was to take afteh he had finished his 
wo'k, and on this map was the place wheah he was 
to leave half of what he found in the safe. He was 
to cross the ma'sh and make his way south to Ten- 
nessee afteh it was all oveh. 

"You can imagine the astonishment and chagrin 
of the Majah when he found the safe empty of funds, 
afteh he had wo'ked all day to blow it open. He 
was ho'nswoggled by this infe'nal thief of a Milt 
Tuttle. He had taken ev'ry cent befoah the Majah 
came, and left the Majah in the lu'ch to face all the 
consequences, and to get away the best he could. 

"When the Majah came to me that night, and told 
[235] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

me his tale, I was astounded. Of co'se I do not ap- 
prove of robbery, but the Majah had committed no 
robbery. He had taken absolutely nothing f 'om that 
safe, and he was as innocent of robbery as a child 
unbawn. Milt Tuttle was the thief, and on his ill 
gotten wealth he went off somewheah f o ' his health, 
but he was stricken by a vengeful providence with 
pneumonia, and he is now dead, and theah is no 
way of proving his dasta'dly connection with the 
affaiah. 

"I told the Majah that he had been made a cat's 
paw, and that he had betteh go home as fast as he 
could. He was without funds, and, unf o 'tunately, I 
did not have any to lend him, so he sta'ted fo' the 
south on foot. That was the last I saw of the Majah, 
and I had a letteh Pom one of the fo'mah officers 
of ouah regiment, that the Majah is now dead. I 
assume, suh, that he died of a broken heaht, all on 
account of the villainy of that dehty thief of a Milt 
Tuttle. 

"When I was unjustly and unf o 'tunately dragged 
into that affaiah, I could have told the whole story, 
but I felt bound to protect my friend the Majah, 
who fought undeh me fo' foah yeahs. He twice 
saved my life on the field, and foah such a man, no 
matteh what his failings might be, I was bound to 
make any sacrifice. I could have gone on the stand 
and pointed my fingah at the thief, but of what 
avail? The attorney who represented me in those 
disgraceful proceedings advised me to keep my seat, 
as the state had no case whateveh. That mutton 

[236] 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

headed old bi'led owl that was supposed to be a 
cou't, bound me oveh, but I was soon released, and 
my friend's secret was not in jeopa'dy. 

"I have now expiated the penalty of the No 'the 'n 
law fo' whipping that rascally edeteh. My atto'ney 
also pounded him to a jelly. It is my intention to 
hawss-whip Tipton Posey, foah he was the one that 
sta'ted the talk that resulted in all those legal pro- 
ceedings, and during the thi'ty days that I am in 
jail foah that, it is my intention to complete my 
novel, in which, as I told you, is to be woven my 
memoahs. 

" It is a good thing fo' Milt Tuttle that he had 
pneumonia, foah if he was not deceased I would fill 
him full of holes f o ' the dishonah he brought on my 
friend the Majah, and then I would leave the no'th 
f o 'evah. 

"I shall nevah blacken the memory of Majah 
Speed by using his name with the story of the blow- 
ing open of the safe in my book. I shall use an- 
otheh name, suh, and his secret shall be f o 'evah safe 
and his memory will be unta'nished, fo' the Majah 
nevah stole a dollah. He can stand befoah that 
greateh cou't, wheah he has now gone, with a guilt- 
less and stainless soul." 

I was much interested in the Colonel's narrative, 
and after talking over some of the details, we re- 
tired for the night. 

I had quietly enjoyed the naive reasoning, and the 
chivalrous devotion of the Colonel to his war time 
friend. There was pathos in the tale of sacrifice, 

[237] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

and, several times I saw moisture in the old sol- 
dier's eyes, as he dilated upon the cruelty of his 
position in the affair of the safe. 

His conceptions of right and wrong were refresh- 
ing, and his penchant for taking the law into his 
own hands was* evidently going to get him into more 
predicaments, but it was useless to argue with him. 
I felt sorry about Posey's coming castigation, but 
as Tip was abundantly able to take care of himself, 
I concluded not to worry over it. 

On our way down the river the next morning, the 
Colonel reverted to Major Speed's ill starred visit. 

"I presume that you would think, suh, that the 
interests of the living ah paramount to those of the 
dead, and that I ought to tell Majah Speed's story 
to the world. His memory and the memory of that 
black heahted vahlet, Milt Tuttle, would suffeh, and 
Tuttle's ought to suffeh, but my vindication would 
be complete. Natu'ally I do not enjoy being looked 
at askance, and I sometimes think that I ought to 
remove the stigma that now rests on my name." 

I advised him to let matters remain as they were, 
inasmuch as he could produce no proof of the facts, 
and little would be gained by stirring up the affair. 

"But I do not need proof of facts, they would 
have my wo'd of honah, suh!" 

I explained the uncertain value of a "wo'd of 
honah" in that part of the country. I refrained 
from telling him that I thought his reputation would 
not be much improved by his explanation, for he 
would at least still be regarded as an "accessory 

T238] 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

after the fact" because of his admission of the pro- 
tection to Speed. 

"By the way, Colonel," I asked, in order to 
change the subject, "what did you finally do about 
Pud Calkins?" 

"Pud Calkins? I killed him, suh, at Vicksbu'g. 
That cuss disappeahed entiahly f 'om from memoahs 
while I was in jail, and I assuah you, suh, that I 
heaved a sigh of relief when that man fell. I can 
now go ahead with my combination novel and me- 
moahs without his bobbing up and down in the plot 
every time I sit down to write." 

It occurred to me that the casualties among those 
whom the fates whirled into the Colonel's orbit were 
becoming rather numerous. 

"I am vehy sorry to tell you that when you come 
down heah again, you will probably not find me," 
he continued. "I am in a vehy bad predicament 
about the place where I live. As you know, I in- 
herited that place in good faith, but I find theah 
has been a mo'tgage on it that I didn't know any- 
thing about. The damned editeh of that scurrilous 
sheet has in some way got possession of that mo't- 
gage. I am unable to meet its obligations, suh, and 
I must move, probably this winteh. I will go back 
to Tennessee, wheah the sun shines without expense 
to anybody, and wheah a gentleman commands re- 
spect even though he is unfo'tunate. I may have 
to walk to Tennessee, but I will make a sho't call at 
the home of that buzza'd that runs that newspapah, 
the evening that I go away, suh!" 

[239] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

The Colonel and I had spent happy days together, 
and it was with genuine sadness that I bade him 
farewell a few days later. He was a mellow old soul, 
ruled by emotions, and not by reason, drifting aim- 
lessly on a sea of troubles, totally lost to every con- 
sideration except his childish vanity and the mem- 
ories of a threadbare chivalry. He easily adjusted 
his conscience to any point of view that conformed 
to his interest, and suffered keenly from sensitive- 
ness. Fate had thrown him into an environment 
with which he could not mingle, and it was perhaps 
better that he should go. When all else failed, there 
was a world in his imaginative brain in which he 
could live, and woe to those who have not these 
realms of fancy when the shadows come. 

When I visited the river the following spring I 
arranged with my friend Muskrat Hyatt to pro- 
vide me with the shelter of his stranded house boat, 
and to act as " pusher" and general utility man in 
my expeditions on the river and marsh. 

"Rat" was always interesting, and I anticipated 
a delightful two weeks. 

One of the first trips we made was down to the 
Big Marsh, where we intended to camp for a day 
or two on a little island that was scarcely ever vis- 
ited. It was thirty or forty yards long and half as 
wide. There were a few trees, some underbrush and 
fallen timber on the islet. The place was deserted, 
except for a blue heron that winged away in awk- 
ward flight as we approached. There was no rea- 
son for stopping there, but a wayward fancy and a 

[240] 



THE PREDICAMENTS OF COLONEL PEETS 

desire to see the vast marsh in its different moods. 

After we landed I asked Rat about the Colo- 
nel. 

"The Colonel's place was sold under a mortgage 
last fall, an' that oP maid that swore fer 'im at the 
trial bid it in, an' its in her name, an' now the Colo- 
nel's married the old maid, so there y'are. 

"That oP feller come down to the store one 
mornin' an' him an' Tip had a fight, an' Tip got 
licked. The Colonel an' Seth Mussey had come in 
a buggy, an' they was goin' on from Tip's to the 
county seat to see the editor of the paper. It was 
all about that safe bio win' case, an' the Colonel ac- 
cused Tip of start 'n all the talk about 'im. Bill 
Wirrick an ' me got a rig an ' went to the county seat, 
fer we thought the Colonel was goin' to lick the edi- 
tor ag'in an' we wanted to see the fun, but the editor 
was out of town. The Colonel went up to see the oP 
maid an' they was married the next day. I guess 
she had some money, fer they took the cars an' said 
they was goin' down south. 

"The Colonel went to the postmaster an' told 'im 
to tell the editor, w'en 'e got home, that if 'e ever 
put the Colonel's name in 'is paper ag'in, er any 
name that sounded like his, he'd kill 'im, an' I guess 
the editor b'lieved it, fer 'e didn't mention nothin' 
about the wedd'n w'en 'e got back. 

1 ' People don 't think the Colonel Mowed open that 
safe after all. He never flashed no wealth around 
afterwards, and the way he beat up that editor fer 
sayin ' things about 'im, sort a squared 'im up. ' ' 

[241] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

We erected our little tent, and Eat busied himself 
with collecting fuel. He attacked a long hollow log 
with his axe. When it was split open we found an 
old gray coat, that had at some time been stuffed 
into the decayed interior. We laid the coat out on 
the ground and Rat extracted a discolored brass key 
from one of the pockets, and a wad of hairy mate- 
rial, that proved to be a set of false chin whiskers. 
In a damaged manilla envelope, that we found in an 
inside pocket, was a certificate of the honorable dis- 
charge of Jasper Montgomery Peets, as a private 
in the Confederate Army. 

The mildewed relics, with their eloquent though 
silent story, were convincing. 

"I s'spose 'e thought that gray coat was gitt'n 
too pop'lar with possees, an' 'e concluded to shed 
it," remarked Rat. "Say, wasn't that feller a 
peach 1 ' ' 

I agreed that he was. 

I sat for a long time on the sloping bank of the 
islet, and mused over the soul mates that, like mi- 
grating songsters, had winged their way to the 
balmy southland when the leaves had fallen, and the 
skies had become gray. I thought of Anastasia's 
hungry heart, and the precarious resting place it 
had found. 

The Colonel's "plot" had certainly been woven 
to a consistent end; the "mystehious veiled lady" 
had glided into its web, and there was a wedding 
on the last page. 

[242] 



IX 

HIS UNLUCKY STAB 



IX 

HIS UNLUCKY STAR 

I HAD stopped on the old bridge in the twilight 
to look upon the glories of a dreamy after- 
glow, and the gnarled tree forms that were 
etched against its symphony of color far away down 
the river. Just above the bands of purple and 
orange the evening star was coming out of a sea of 
turquoise, and its radiance was creeping into the 
waters below the trees. I heard a light foot fall 
behind me. 

"Excuse me, mister, have you got a match T" 

I turned and saw an odd looking little man, of 
perhaps fifty, with a squirrel skin cap and ginger 
colored hair and beard, who laid down a burden con- 
tained in a gunny sack, and approached deferen- 
tially. 

As I produced the match he brought forth a viru- 
lent looking pipe that seemed to consist mostly of 
solidified nicotine. 

"I don't seem to have no tobacco neither," he 
continued ruefully, as he fumbled in his pockets. 

I gave him a cigar, a portion of which he broke 
up and stuffed into his pipe. He carefully stowed 
the remainder in his vest pocket and began to smoke 
composedly. 

[245] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

I asked him if he lived in the neighborhood. 

"No, my place is about two miles from here. I've 
ben up the river after some snake root that's wanted 
right away by the man I do business with. My 
name's Erastus Wattles an' I get all kinds of herbs 
around 'ere f er a man that sells 'em to the medicine 
makers somewheres down east." 

We sat on the bridge rail and talked for some 
time, and I became much interested in my new ac- 
quaintance. He spoke in a low voice, and his man- 
ner seemed rather furtive. He told me much of the 
herbs and rare plants that grew in the river country, 
and of his attempts to cultivate ginseng. ' ' Certain 
influences" had repeatedly caused failures of his 
crop. 

"That's a fine scene out yonder," he remarked, 
and the splendid glow of Jupiter in the western sky 
led to a subject that I found had enthralled his life, 
and his eyes quickened with a new light as he told 
me his story. 

When he was a young man he had studied for the 
stage, but had made a failure of this, and had gone 
to work on an Ohio river steamboat as a clerk. A 
very old man, with long white whiskers and green 
spectacles came on board at Louisville late one 
night. He wanted to go to Cairo, but lacked a dol- 
lar of the amount necessary for his boat fare. He 
stated that he was a professor of astrology, and 
offered to cast the horoscope of anybody on the boat 
who would supply the deficiency. After an eloquent 
exposition of the wonders of astrology by the pro- 

[246] 



HIS UNLUCKY STAR 

fessor, Wattles furnished the dollar and the date 
and hour of his birth. 

Amid the jibes of the other employees on the boat 
he received his horoscope just before the landing 
was made at Cairo. The aged seer departed down 
the gang plank and disappeared. 

This was the turning point in the life of Erastus 
Wattles. 

He sought a secluded place on the boat and 
studied the several closely written pages of fools- 
cap, that were pinned together and numbered, and 
found that the old man had done a conscientious 
and thorough job. 

Wattles extracted a large worn envelope from an 
inside pocket. It contained the document, which he 
said he always carried with him, and he asked me 
to read it. 

On the first page was the circle of the horoscope, 
divided into its twelve "houses," and above it was 
the "nativity" with the "sidereal variation" noted. 

In the "delineation," which occupied the remain- 
ing pages, were black clouds of misfortune. If Wat- 
tles had selected his hour of birth he could not have 
found one in the whole gamut of heavenly chords 
when his entrance into the world would have been 
more inopportune. 

Mars was "on the ascendant in Taurus" and was 
his "significator" and "ruling planet." Its posi- 
tion in relation to the other "malefics" — Saturn, 
Uranus and Neptune — all of which were above the 
horizon, was most disastrous. Two malefics were 

[247] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

11 poised upon the cusp of the House of Money," in- 
dicating that Wattles ' 'would go broke, and remain 
so during life." The moon was also in a hostile 
square at the time. 

The hoary headed astrologer had ' ' dived into the 
Abyss of Futurity, and through a glass darkly" 
he had seen "a pale light." It illumined a life of 
hopeless sorrow and futility. Ever and anon the 
blood red eye of Mars gleamed with a baleful glow 
upon the destiny under consideration. When Mars 
was off duty Saturn took up the malign rod, which 
was yielded to Uranus and Neptune when he passed 
temporarily into other fields of astral activity to 
indicate misfortunes of other people. 

Periods of deep perplexities were apparent — 
when Wattles must not engage in new ventures, or 
talk with men over sixty, or with women under forty 
— when he must not deal with farmers, or have any- 
thing to do with people with red hair or bushy eye- 
brows. He was not to ask favors, travel, trade, 
write letters or marry, when the moon was in its 
first or last quarter, or have anything to do with 
surgeons or tradesmen when the moon was in con- 
junction with Saturn. Flying pains in limbs and 
joints, warts, boils, and accidents to the head were 
indicated at these periods. New enterprises might 
be undertaken when the sun was in Leo, but not if 
Neptune was stationary in Aries at that time, or if 
Venus was retrogressing in Cancer or Capricorn. 

When Jupiter and Venus were together in Libra 
there would be particularly distressing periods for 

[248] 



HIS UNLUCKY STAR 

Wattles. When Jupiter passed into Sagittarius 
there might be temptation to make merry, but in the 
midst of mirth he must remember death, for almost 
fatal accidents, and possibly severe illness were in- 
dicated for these times, which were pregnant with 
calamity. 

A certain retrogression of Uranus in Leo in the 
fifth year after the casting, with the sun hyleg, Mars 
in Aquarius, and the moon in Capricorn, indicated 
a liver complaint, with pains in the back and head, 
an almost fatal accident from an explosive com- 
pound, and interference in his affairs by a fat per- 
son — probably a female with a retreating chin, 
whose significator would be the malefic Neptune. A 
minor sub-related transit "might change this fe- 
male to a dark haired woman with pointed features,- 
who would spread strange reports with a bitter 
tongue, but in an unknown language." 

No illnesses, accidents or women materialized in 
that year, and Wattles thought they were all side 
tracked by a retrogression of Mercury in Virgo. 

The influence of an evil minded woman, whose 
ruling planet was Saturn, was indicated during the 
eleventh year. Long arms, freckles and a high in- 
step were suggested, as Antares would be in Gemini 
when she came into the sketch. Wattles had as- 
sumed that this peril had been fended off by an un- 
suspected transit. He had stayed in the woods as 
much as possible while Antares was in Gemini, and 
had spoken to no female during the eleventh year, 
but afterwards learned that the postmistress, who 

[249] 



THE VANISHING BIVER 

answered the description, had told an inquirer that 
no such man as Wattles lived in that part of the 
country. Somebody had tried to find him with a 
view of making a large herb contract, which had 
been thereby lost, so, after all, the indication was 
correct. 

Under the heads of "Heredity," "Mental Facul- 
ties," "Moral Qualities," and "Disposition," it ap- 
peared that Wattles possessed most of the char- 
acteristics of a goat. The "cause" was "obscure" 
but assiduous effort might gradually overcome some 
of the tendencies. 

In the twenty-second year, which was yet to come, 
the two malefics, Saturn and Neptune, would retro- 
grade in Taurus. Mars and the Moon would be in 
Aquarius, and this would probably mean that Wat- 
tles would have an affliction of the stomach, and 
would lose one or both legs if he waded in unclear 
waters. 

There were so many things to look out for that he 
was dazed with their complexity. He was horrified 
by the "variations" and "transits of evil omen" 
that were possible in unexpected quarters when the 
rest of the sky was apparently free. Temporizing 
signs and harmless transits were rare. Malign con- 
junctions and oppositions were leading features of 
every month in the calendar. 

At one of the periods, when the moon and Ceres 
would be in opposition, and Venus "in trine" with 
Neptune, Wattles would die of an unindicated dis- 
order. 

[250} 



HIS UNLUCKY STAR 

He had certainly got his dollar's worth. With 
Mars careering continually through the Zodiac, and 
all the other malefics falling into conjunction and 
opposition at the most fateful times, he saw little 
prospect of escaping'an astrological coil that reeked 
with woe. For him there was no balm in Gilead, or 
anywhere else in the universe. Like many others 
he let the blessings of existence take care of them- 
selves, and was concerned solely with its ills. Ap- 
parently he was hopelessly enmeshed, but instinct- 
ively he struggled on. 

The far seeing sage delineated a collateral varia- 
tion indicating that the subject of the horoscope 
would, within a year after its casting, become a dis- 
ciple, and possibly a practitioner, of a certain an- 
cient science that had to do with the heavenly bodies, 
but the indication was not quite clear as to its name. 

Impelled by this covert and ingeniously mystic 
suggestion, "Wattles had procured all the literature 
he could find on the subject of astrology, and had 
studied it carefully. He hoped that he might find 
error in his horoscope, but the more he studied the 
more he believed. He had been touched with a hyp- 
notic wand and had drifted into the toils of a re- 
morseless power. 

The opinion expressed by one of his friends on 
the steamboat that ''the old party who cast the 
horoscope was probably drunk" had no weight with 
Wattles. There were too many confirmations of 
planet positions and significations in the astrologi- 

[251] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

cal almanacs and related literature that he had suc- 
ceeded in accumulating. 

There was a postscript at the end of the delinea- 
tion. Somewhere in the realms of infinite space the 
white bearded prophet felt the presence of a strange 
and malign star, that, for lack of data at hand, could 
not be named. Its unknown orbit dimly intersected 
the fate lines of Wattles. At some crisis in his af- 
fairs it would unexpectedly become manifest and 
would have a woeful significance. 

Wattles pondered long upon the missing star in 
his horoscope, and had vainly sought it in his 
studies. There appeared to be nothing in his books 
that could lead to a solution, and the unknown 
malefic besieged his soul with a haunting fear. 

"I got to keep track of all them heavenly bodies, 
and if that damn star ever shows up I must get a 
line on it," he declared, as he folded up his horo- 
scope. "I've got all the almanacs, and I know where 
ev'ry thing is all the time. I've studied astrology 
'till I've ben black in the face, and I'm an expert 
caster. I'm goin' to cast horoscopes right along; 
now. There's my significator comin' up, an' its in 
Aquarius now," he remarked, and he pointed to 
Mars that had just scaled the tree tops in the east. 

He offered, ' ' for the small sum of fifty cents, ' ' to 
sell me an unlabelled bottle of brown liquid, which 
he said was "an excellent tonic" that he made him- 
self. He called it "Wahoo Bitters." I made the 
purchase and placed the precious compound on the 
bridge rail. 

[252] 



HIS UNLUCKY STAR 

He took a small book from his pocket, which he 
consulted for a moment, and then invited me to 
visit him if I would come at a particular hour on 
Thursday of the following week. This I promised 
to do if possible. He told me how to find his house, 
gratefully accepted another cigar, and bade me good 
night. He then softly mingled with the shadows of 
the woods with his bag of roots. I pushed the 
Wahoo Bitters gently over into the river and con- 
tinued my walk. 

He was a strange and pathetic figure. Naturally 
superstitious, he had become imbued with illusions, 
that for ages have lured the imaginations of those 
who have reached blindly into the unknowable and 
found only the Ego — the " ruling star" in all horo- 
scopes. Verily, to man, the luminary of the great- 
est magnitude in the universe is himself. Not con- 
tent to be silly over little things, he must needs 
prowl among the constellations and there spin the 
web of his puny personal affairs, as in theology he 
assumes the particular concern of the Almighty with 
his daily doings. 

Ancient as astrology is, it is not as old as con- 
ceit. 

I was curious to know more of Wattles. At heart 
I scoffed, but concluded to keep my engagement and 
ask him to cast my horoscope. On the appointed 
day I made the little journey. The road led 
through the woods for a mile or so to a big oak 
tree that Wattles had described. Here a narrow 
path left it and followed the course of the river to 

[253] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

a long bayou. Beyond the end of the bayou I found 
some high ground on which perhaps an acre had 
been cleared. Near the farther edge of the clear- 
ing was an unpainted single story house with low 
eaves. There was some queer looking frame work, 
and a small platform on the roof. 

As I approached the door I was confronted with 
cabalistic characters — painted in black on the wood 
work. The signs of the Zodiac appeared around the 
rim of a roughly drawn circle. On a blue back- 
ground at the top of the door were four stars and 
a crescent moon in yellow. I assumed that the stars 
represented the malefics in Wattles' horoscope. 

In response to my knock, he opened the door. 

"Well, I'm glad to see you!" he exclaimed. "I 
didn't think you'd come. I thought mebbe you 
might size me up for a queer bird after all that talk 
we had on the bridge. Set down an' make yourself 
comfortable. ' ' 

He flung a villainous looking maltese torn cat, that 
he addressed as "Scorpio," out of a crippled rock- 
ing chair, and I occupied the vacated space. 

As Scorpio fled through a hole in the bottom of 
the door, that apparently had been cut for his ben- 
efit, I noticed that he was much scarred. One ear 
was gone, his left eyelid was missing, there were 
bare places on him where the fur had been removed, 
evidently with violence, and his tail was not com- 
plete. These things imparted a sinister aspect, and 
I did not like him. He looked like a thoroughly bad 
oat, and was probably a malefic. 

[254] 



HIS UNLUCKY STAR 

It would seem fit that a cat found amid such un- 
canny surroundings should be black instead of mal- 
tese, but as this is a veracious chronicle it is 
necessary to adhere to facts. 

"We spent some time in desultory conversation be- 
fore I mentioned the ostensible object of my visit. 

"Now," said Wattles, "before I do anything 
about your horoscope, I want to show some I've ben 
casting, ' ' and he began pulling over some papers on 
his shelves. 

While he was doing this I looked around the 
strange room. 

A row of bottles on one of the shelves contained 
various small reptiles with filmy orbs that peered 
out through alcohol. From the end of the shelf a 
stuffed badger stared fixedly and disdainfully, with 
dull glass eyes, at a moth eaten coon that returned 
the gaze from a pedestal in a darkened corner. A 
dismal and tattered owl occupied a perch above the 
coon. One of his glass eyes had dropped out, but 
with the other he regarded the offending badger 
sadly. 

A dried snake skin, with several dangling rattles, 
was tacked on the wall back of the stove, with a few 
Indian relics — bows, arrows, and a, spear head — that 
were arranged on each side of it. Some butterflies 
with broken wings, and beetles, impaled on pins, 
were scattered through the spaces around the relics. 
A number of colored botanical prints and astronom- 
ical charts were pinned on the walls, and there were 

[255] 



THE VANISHING KIVER 

cobwebs in the upper corners that appeared to be 
inhabited. 

Some bunches of withered herbs and a broken 
violin hung above the window. On a table near it 
was a violet tinted globe of solid glass, about six 
inches in diameter. It was mounted on a block of 
wood. Wattles afterwards explained that this was 
a l( magic crystal of marvellous power," and that it 
"pictured prophetic visions under certain in- 
fluences." 

The air in the room had a pungent musty odor, 
as of dried roots and plants, and I thought that a 
pile of small sacks back of the stove might contain 
something of the kind. 

Wattles finally produced copies of the horoscopes 
and I was pleased to find among them those of my 
friends Tipton Posey, Bill Stiles and "Eat" Hyatt. 

As Wattles traded at Posey's store, his horoscope 
had probably been exchanged for merchandise. 

Posey's nativity was exceptionally fortuitious. 
Jupiter was his significator, and the other benefics 
were advantageously placed at the hour of his birth, 
In the delineation it appeared that there were few 
blessings that would escape him as long as he was 
kind to friends and not too fond of money. His his- 
torical parallel was a certain ancient Persian king, 
who, after a long and happy reign, was suffocated 
in a shower of gold. 

He would be fortunate in his dealings with all 
those who had to do with medicines of any kind. It 
would always be safe for him to extend credit when 

[256] 



HIS UNLUCKY STAR 

any of the benefics were above the horizon, and at 
any time that the sun was in Aquarius, Scorpio, or 
Leo. It would be a bad time for Posey to ask for 
money, or to try to collect debts of any kind, when 
Mercury was in opposition to Mars, when the moon 
was full, or partially so, when the sun was in Virgo, 
Taurus, or Aries, or when two or more of the 
malefics were above the horizon. Persons born 
under Posey's planet were tactful and magnetic, 
had much power over the minds of others and 
were model housewives. They were proud, dignified 
and conservative, intolerant of wrong, and well 
adapted to fill representative positions. Usually 
they had piercing intellects and triumphed in all 
things. They were at times inclined to avarice, and 
to be suspicious of others, and this must be strongly 
guarded against. There was a dark warning 
against the acquirement of too much wealth. 

In his magic crystal Wattles dimly saw a figure 
that looked like Posey, but the head was that of 
some kind of a beast. It sat upon a rock with a big 
bag of gold, with which it had climbed a weary hill. 
Beyond was a shady bower among the trees, under 
which dwelt happy hours. The way was blocked by 
two black rams, that signified opposition. The fig- 
ure could not go on, for its fair form had been 
changed by the winning of the gold. 

Far beyond the bower was a wonderful city with 
brilliant domes. Its towers sparkled with ruby and 
pearl, and unto this bright city the figure could never 

[257] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

go, because of its brutish aspect that betokened 
greed. 

Bill Stiles 's ruling star was Saturn, and his nativ- 
ity was questionable. The planet's position, with 
regard to the moon and Mars in Leo, indicated a 
Master Spirit, subject to many variations of for- 
tune. The tendencies were modified by the benign 
presence of Arcturus and Venus in Aries at his 
natal hour. Two famous Roman emperors had 
almost identical nativities. Bill was studious, 
veracious, instinctively noble and imperious. He 
had an iron will, abhorred deception in others, and 
was stern and able. He would be warlike and re- 
fractory when Mars was in the square of Saturn. 
When his significator was in Aquarius, he would 
be liable to serious errors of judgment, and he would 
have great potency for evil. He would succeed in 
undertakings that would bring fame. Certain lit- 
erary work, upon which he was now engaged, was 
likened to that of the ancient Jewish historian 
Josephus. At some period when Mercury and 
Venus were in opposition, and the moon was in 
Capricorn, Bill would fall to rise no more. 

Venus was ascendant in Virgo when Rat Hyatt 
came into the world, but the watchful eye of Saturn 
in Leo was upon him. The benign love star was 
not allowed to monopolize his fortunes. There'were 
three malefics in strategic sectors that betokened 
danger. The moon was coyly ensconced with respect 
to Venus, and thus neutralized the dire influences to 
some extent. Counterparts of Rat's characteristics, 

[258] 



HIS UNLUCKY STAR 

indicated by planetic conditions at his birth, were 
found in Richard Coeur de Lion and Marcus 
Aurelius. They evidenced one " skilful in com- 
mand, ambitious, cautious, strenuous, obstinate, 
active, yet indolent at times, versatile, inventive, 
acute and self confident, busy in all things, terrible 
in anger, intrepid and invincible when roused, loyal 
to friends and modest, yet fond of applause." 

There were many dark spots in the picture, 
aspected by the moon, that were fraught with peril, 
and Hyatt must beware of the angry Saturn. Mars 
was also an interfering factor. Rat must never go 
below a certain bend in the river during a waning 
moon, or in the summer time, and must shun women 
with protruding teeth. (An obvious allusion to 
Hyatt's friend, Malindy Taylor, whom Wattles 
admired from afar.) 

In a vision in Wattles's crystal, while Rat Hyatt 
was under consideration, there appeared a tall skel- 
eton, with a helmet and a fiery spear. It wore a 
breast plate on which was inscribed "Sent from 
God." The bony arms waved the spear, and the 
crystal was suffused with- red. 

The interpretation was that Hyatt would be 
wanted in the near future. 

In another crystal vision, a slowly moving figure, 
with a sorrow stricken mien, and a halo above its 
head, approached a water's edge and contemplated 
men who drew a net. When the meshes came upon 
the sand the figure stooped, took from them one of 

[259] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

the fish, and cast it back into the sea. A darkness 
then came upon the face of the waters. 

Wattles divined that this signified something in 
connection with Hyatt, and that "the fish was no 
good." 

As I finished reading the horoscopes the torn cat 
Scorpio returned through the hole in the door and 
crawled under the stove with a chipmunk he had 
caught in the woods. 

1 ' That crystal was at one time in India, ' ' explained 
Wattles, as he placed the horoscopes between the 
leaves of a big book. "The Buddhists used it, and 
it was stolen by a desecrater of a temple, who fled 
to Italy. There it was used by a great astrologer 
and magician for over fifty years. From Italy it 
went to England and into the possession of the world 
renowned Zadkiel. After that it went to New York 
by inheritance. I bought it from a man in Cincin- 
nati for two dollars. He did not know what it was, 
but I did, for it was fully described in some books 
I have. I believe it to be the celebrated Lady 
Blessington crystal that was exhibited in London 
before all the nobility in 1850. I will show you 
how it works." 

He placed the crystal on the window ledge, and 
into a little pan, between it and the light, he poured 
some gray powder from a wide mouthed bottle. He 
lighted the powder and a pale yellow smoke 
ascended. He then covered his head and half of the 
globe with a black cloth, as one would do in focussing 
a camera. In this way all light was excluded except 

[260] 



HIS UNLUCKY STAR 

that which passed through the smoke and crystal 
into the darkened space under the cloth. 

"I am not expecting to see any visions now," he 
continued, "but for all that there may be one- there." 
He was silent for some time and then asked me to 
look. 

I carefully adjusted the cloth and gazed upon the 
luminous orb. Owing to the wreaths of smoke on 
the other side of the globe, there- were wierd filmy 
changes'in the field of light. A dark indistinct form 
seemed to wander in the dim depths of the crystal. 
The movement ceased near the center. 

I told Wattles, what had happened, and asked him 
to interpret it, but he made no reply. I withdrew 
the cloth and found that the mysterious apparition 
had been produced by the blurred magnification of 
the silhouette of a blue bottle fly that was crawling 
about on the light side of the crystal. 

Wattles said, in a regretful, kindly tone, that the 
influences were not quite right for the visions. He 
had found by the test that I was a skeptic, and, 
when looked into by unbelievers, the crystal re- 
mained clouded and never "visualized." I accepted 
the explanation humbly. 

"Now," said he, "I want you to see my observa- 
tory." He took a long marine spy glass from be- 
hind the books on the shelf and we ascended a 
rickety ladder to a trap door in the roof, by means 
of which we reached an enclosed platform over the 
house. 

"By get'n' up here I command a better horizon 
[261] 



THE VANISHING EIVER 

than I would from the ground," he explained, as 
he adjusted the spy glass into the top of some re- 
volving frame work. From the low seat near it he 
could inspect the heavens to his heart's content. 
Through the glass I scrutinized a flock of turbulent 
crows around some tree tops beyond the river a mile 
or .so away, and it appeared to be an excellent in- 
strument of its kind. 

In. this humble eyrie I could fancy Wattles com- 
muning with the stars on quiet nights, listening to 
their spiritual voices, gazing with apprehension upon 
the hovering malefics, and searching the immutable 
heavens for the missing orb of his horoscope. 

Like the Chaldeans of old upon their lonely watch 
towers in the dawn of history, he contemplated the 
bejewelled scroll, and beheld the endless processions 
of mighty planets that, in his belief, cycled through 
infinity to fashion minute destinies on the distant 
speck of earth. The flying shuttling spheres were 
weaving the mottled fabrics of the fates of men, and, 
among them was the frail and ill-starred web of 
Wattles. After all, was he of less consideration 
than all the others, who assume the* creation of the 
universe to be a vast design for the final glory of 
humanity? 

We descended from the platform, and Wattles 
conducted me to his "labertory," a small room at 
the rear of the house. 

Several large kettles were scattered about, and, 
on a low platform was a large alembic. A big stove 
stood near the chimney. Stacked along the shelves 

[262] 



HIS UNLUCKY STAR 

were baskets of dried leaves, flowers and berries, 
piles of various herbs, bundles of wild cherry and 
wahoo bark, and bags of flag and snake roots. 

The torn cat Scorpio had followed us and he 
sniffed suspiciously around a barrel in the corner, 
in which there were probably mouse nests. 

"This is where I make them celebrated Wahoo 
Bitters," Wattles announced proudly, as he pointed 
to a row of filled bottles on one of the shelves. "I 
got the formula from Waukena, the old Injun squaw 
that used to live up in Whippoorwill Bayou. All the 
Injuns used to take it when they got sick, but they 
didn't 'ave such improved ways of makin' it as I 
got. They used to drop red hot stones in with the 
things its made of, and I think that killed part o* 
the edge the bitters ought to have on 'em when 
they're done. They didn't know how to combine 
certain chemical diffusions and decant 'em off the 
way I do. I sell a good deal o' them bitters around 
'ere. Posey keeps 'em at the store an' there's lots 
of other places where they have 'em in the stores. 

We left the "labertory" and I heard the sound of 
a swift scrape along the floor. I inferred that Scor- 
pio had made a seizure. 

Wattles kindly asked me to have some lunch with 
him. It was more of a * i feed ' ' than a repast. Late 
in the afternoon I finished my rather prolonged but 
interesting visit. 

Wattles wanted to show me his garden, and we 
walked out into the clearing along the edge of a 
deep ravine back of the house. Some of the vege- 

[263] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

tables in the garden had struggled hard for 
existence. 

"Look at them beets!" he exclaimed ruefully. 
"I planted 'em under exactly proper lunar aspects 
and I ain't got a damn beet in the patch." 

He promised to leave my horoscope at Posey's 
store in about a week. I thanked him for his many 
courtesies and departed. I noticed that he did not 
invite me to make him another visit. 

It happened that nearly six months elapsed before 
I was in that part of the country again. I inquired 
at the store for my horoscope and found that it had 
been left according to agreement. It was a thrilling 
document and I found much amusement in it. 

I had a chat with Posey out on the platform, and 
he told me that my astrological friend had got into 
all kinds of trouble. 

"That feller was a pippin," he declared; "the 
slickest that ever lived around 'ere, an' we've had 
some pretty good ones. He was foregathered by the 
officers for makin' queer half dollars up to his place 
an ' the devil was to pay. The coins was finished up 
so fine you c'd hardly tell 'em. He shipped 'em out 
with the herbs 'e sent to some feller away off, an' 
it was a long time before they traced 'em. He had 
a little furnace in the cellar under 'is house that 'e 
went down into through a trap door in the floor, an' 
they was a tunnel from the cellar out to the side 
of the ravine back of the house that 'e'd dug to git 
away by if anybody ever come after 'im. 

* ' That Wahoo Bitters fluid 'e made was hot stuff. 
[264] 




The Sheriff 



HIS UNLUCKY STAE 

It was about three-quarters bad alcohol. You c'd 
take three er four fair sized doses an' you'd want 
to go out an' throw stones at yer folks. Ev'rybody 
was buyin' it. Old Swan Peterson took it reg'lar 
an' half the time 'e didn't know 'is name. I used 
to leave Bill in charge o' the store when I went off 
duck shoot 'n. He slep' upstairs, an' would always 
'ave a spell o' sickness while I was away, an' e'd 
come down in the night an' drink up the stock. He'd 
git a skinfull an' sometimes he'd stay corned three 
days. They wasn't no money in that an' I had to 
quit carryin' it. All the owls in the woods up and 
down the river hoot ' Wahoo-Wahoo' an' that always 
advertised 'is dope, but I guess 'e made more money 
in 'is little furnace than 'e did out o' Wahoo. 

"Them dizzy dreams 'e wrote about us fellers 
made me think 'e was looney fer awhile, an' that the 
moon 'ad addled 'im when 'e was roostin' up among 
them sticks on top of 'is coop at night, but you bet 
there wasn't nuth'n looney about 'im. He had a 
wise head, all except git'n away with it." 

Posey's story was rather lengthy and involved, 
but it seemed that a quiet and thorough investigation 
of the affairs of the versatile Wattles had been made 
by a government detective. His place was visited 
one day during his absence. The small furnace, 
some moulds, and other counterfeiter's parapher- 
nalia were discovered, and several hundred excellent 
imitations of Uncle Sam's legal tender and Pullman 
porter tips were found hidden under rubbish that 
concealed the entrance to the underground exit from 

[265] 



THE VANISHING RIVER 

the cellar. The opening in the ravine was well pro- 
tected from observation by vegetation. 

Two secret service men, accompanied by the 
sheriff, had come quietly up the river in a boat late 
one night. One of the party stole up the path along 
the bayou, one approached through the ravine, and 
the other remained with the boat at the entrance 
to the bayou. 

Wattles heard suspicious sounds and his lights 
went out. He crept noiselessly through his secret 
exit, and at its end he saw the missing evil star 
of his horoscope. It was on the vest of the officer 
who awaited him at the mouth of the tunnel. 

With the three malefics who came in the boat, poor 
Wattles, ever a child of misfortune, and the ac- 
cursed of the heavenly spheres, went forth to meet 
the vengeance of the law, and the scarred torn cat 
Scorpio was alone with the visions in the crystal. 




[266] 



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